Blair's Britain, Saving the planet and others

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Blair's Britain: the kind of 'dictatorship' where we all have the vote

Blair's Britain: the kind of 'dictatorship' where we all have the vote

Sir: The near-dictatorship which A D Williams inhabits ("Sleepwalking into a dictatorship", letter, 22 June) is not something that I recognise. It seems that he is angry about many aspects of our lives and, ironically, believes the Government is to blame for all of them or should solve them. Wouldn't that be real dictatorship?

Every UK citizen is entitled to vote so it's hardly the fault of the politicians if many of them choose not to exercise that right. Just because that apathy results in a government being elected by a minority doesn't mean the government has no legitimacy. I support proportional representation but, while the current system is in place, governments are properly elected.

We are one of the few countries in the EU not to have identity cards. Are the 21 countries who do have them dictatorships as a result? To condemn the opening of schools earlier and closing them later as some sort of statist plot is nonsense. Any government that failed to recognise that many children have no breakfast before school or have to hang about in the streets for hours afterwards because of parental work patterns would be ignoring the obvious.

Not being able to buy a house is not a manifestation of dictatorship but, rather, a reflection of our crazy housing market and social pressure which encourages 18 year olds to believe they have an inalienable right to buy property. This is not a right understood in other, more civilised, European countries.

The proposed ban on demonstrations close to Parliament is a necessary response to today's reality which sees too many people on demonstrations out to cause trouble and smash property. Demonstrators serve their causes ill when they resort to such tactics and antagonise the vast majority of the public. I personally find it particularly annoying that people who profess to be democrats also believe that when a few hundred thousand people take to the streets, they somehow represent the majority. They do not.



Saving the planet and helping the poor

Sir: According to a source in your article "The hottest issue of all" (20 June), Downing Street believes "it is simply not possible to talk about the two issues [of climate change and Africa] in the same breath". Why not? If a concept such as Domestic Tradable Quotas (DTQs) proposed by Richard Starkey and Kevin Anderson ("Smart solutions for a greener planet", letter, 13 June) was extended to all countries, the very act of reducing carbon emissions by international trading would reduce third-world poverty.

The sums are clear. Nature can at present absorb somewhat less than 2 tonnes of CO2 per person per year. The average American emits 20 tonnes, the average European 10 tonnes, but the average sub-Saharan African emits less than half a tonne per year.

Emissions "rights" would be issued to everyone based on the average of their country's current emissions. This would, over a period of, say, 25 years, move towards equal "shares of the air" for every citizen on the planet. The rich would buy emissions unused by the poor - trade by right, not aid by charity. The framework under which this would operate, "contraction and convergence", is already supported by most developing countries and many developed ones, and provides the basis for the UK's target of 60 per cent reduction by 2050.

Citizens' carbon trading would educate the public to the low-carbon imperative and encourage low-carbon technologies and consumer choice. In the poorest parts of the world communities would earn the finance they need to move out of poverty, but only in a low-carbon way.



Sir: If the aviation industry really wants to become more environment-friendly as its leaders claim (report, 21 June), then they need to give up their ambitions of increasing passenger numbers and put their minds to tackling how they are going to reduce rather than increase the amount of air traffic.

Aviation is now the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. If we are serious about tackling climate change then it's time to put an end to airport expansion and to put taxes on fuel and emissions so that the cost of flying begins to reflect the true environmental cost.



Sir: Why all this fuss about global warming? Surely Messrs Bush and Blair can use their influence with the Almighty to stop it happening.



No quick fixes for anti-social behaviour

Sir: You are right to raise concerns about the criminalisation of children through the use of Asbos ("The Asbo Generation", 20 June). The Youth Justice Board takes anti-social behaviour by children and young people seriously but Asbos are just one tool out of a range designed to address it.

We have been working closely with the Home Office and the police to ensure that we do everything we can to prevent anti-social behaviour before an Asbo becomes necessary. Youth Offending Teams have a central role to play in working with anti-social young people to address the factors behind their disruptive behaviour. Asbos must be used sensibly and only where all other options have failed. We do not want to see a situation where increasing numbers of young people are being sentenced to custody for breaching the conditions of their Asbos.

You make the point that a better option than Asbos would be to give young people somewhere to go out of school hours. The Board has pioneered the provision of constructive activities for young people identified as being at risk of offending and anti-social behaviour. However we know that the majority of those who are causing disruption in their communities are not regularly attending school. Many have been excluded, while others are persistent truants.

Any serious attempt to reduce anti-social behaviour and crime requires an approach that involves parents, education providers, social services and local communities, as well as the police and courts. It is only by preventing the alienation felt by many young people living in deprived areas that we will start to tackle the causes of anti-social behaviour. There can be no quick fixes.



Sir: For nearly five years we lived in a lovely corner house in London SW3. Throughout our time there, we were under the impression that it was a desirable neighbourhood. However, now that we've put the house on the market, we have learned the awful truth. No fewer than three buyers have dropped the deal at the point of exchange because, upon dropping by to admire their prospective new property, they discovered "youths hanging around".

Horrors. How could we have lived for so long - with young children no less - with danger lurking so close to our doorstep? And what were those children doing hanging around on a beautiful late spring day? Why weren't they inside playing violent video games or surfing pornographic websites?

Thanks to those who look at a young person and see trouble, our house - and I'm sure many others like it - doesn't have the value it did when we moved in. But that was in the days before it was decreed a crime for young people to enjoy each other's company in the clear light of day.


Sir: I'm writing to express my full, unreserved support for the use of Asbos in combating antisocial behaviour in children. A major social menace is a small minority of inconsiderate little terrors.

Take my journey to work this morning: a hyperactive, profanity-proclaiming group of eight 13-year-old school-girls, when asked politely to control their vulgar tongues by a female passenger, directed a torrent of verbal abuse towards her, professing their right to free speech.

If children can cite human rights such as free speech, they are certainly old enough to embrace the rights of their fellow human beings.



The Tory who likes the European Union

Sir: I was shocked by Bruce Anderson's assault on Kenneth Clarke (Opinion, 20 June). Mr Clarke should not be condemned for seeing the merits of the European idea. Europe has had its ups and downs since its inception but it has delivered on its primary objectives: peace and stability.

Yes, there are problems, but there have been problems before and individuals with greater foresight and creativity than Mr Anderson will solve them. To dismiss Kenneth Clarke as a "frog-eater's fifth column" merely reflects xenophobia. Let the Europhobes indulge in schadenfreude at Europe's current woes. The EU will lick its wounds, recover and move forward once again.



Sir: It is gratifying to see that Bruce Anderson is opposing Kenneth Clarke's bid to be Conservative leader, since it shows the Tory establishment's continued inability to learn from its mistakes.

Mr Anderson is a talented, sometimes illuminating columnist, but he is also the man who backed John Major after Thatcher was deposed, celebrated the arrival of William Hague and endorsed Iain Duncan-Smith. He has managed to pick the wrong candidate from every Tory leadership contest of the last 13 years and is representative of his party's total lack of self-awareness.

Perhaps any candidate endorsed by Mr Anderson should immediately withdraw for the good of the party.



PR gives power to the people

Sir: Peter Tritt performs a useful service in drawing attention to New Zealand's system of proportional representation (letter, 20 June), but the fact that he writes from Auckland shouldn't be taken as indicating that his views on it bear any resemblance to what the great mass of Kiwis think about this very successful, pioneering reform.

Turnout has remained high at a time when it has been declining all over the world. Peter wants to return to first-past-the-post, but most people don't. As for the politicians, both the Committee of Inquiry and most politicians I've had contact with want to keep PR because it has given the people more power and forced governments to take the views of other parties into account. The small fringe parties he refers to all came into being not because of PR but because of party splits before it was introduced.

As for the constituency tie, it is, in fact, more important under PR because the campaign concentrates on the safe seats to get the vote out, whereas in this country the parties battle over the two million or so people in the key seats, and largely ignore the rest. Electors in safe seats don't count under first-past-the-post.

The fun of election nights was never as great in New Zealand, where the count was always over quickly, but it's worth missing it to maintain a system where the politicians are kept on a tighter leash by the people. The key point is that it's not the parties who are given greater powers by PR; it's the people.



Way-out facts in the psychedelic vault

Sir: In the opening paragraph of your review of the Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era exhibition at Tate Liverpool ("A trip down memory lane," 14 June) some incorrect information has been given regarding the main lenders to the show.

Wolfgang Walt is not a German collector but a San Francisco based collection and business dealing with rock memorabilia called Wolfgang's Vault. It preserves the archive of the legendary rock impresario Bill Graham, responsible for the establishment of the Fillmore West and East and for commissioning many of the early San Francisco posters. Graham was born Wolfgang Grajonca in Berlin in 1931 before fleeing to the US at age 11.

A German collector, Uwe Husslein of the Documentation Centre for Pop Culture in Cologne, has lent a substantial number of the underground magazines and ephemera including London's Oz and International Times magazines.



Written response

Sir: Would it be appropriate to describe the rash of graffiti already daubed upon The Writer, Giancarlo Neri's oversized table and chair on Hampstead Heath, as appropriately engaging with this piece of public art?



Land of the free

Sir: Yet another survey shows I'm in the minority. This time I'm one of the 20 per cent who don't believe in God. Last week it was Europe. Before that it was immigration. I've decided to set up my own country somewhere so I can be in the majority. Is anyone interested in joining me? I warn you though: there'll be no Diana memorial and no Big Brother!



Religious hatred

Sir: David Ridge asks, "Would Orange Order parades fall foul of the proposed religious hatred legislation?" (letter, 21 June). Given that incitement to religious hatred is already outlawed in Northern Ireland, and that no one was prosecuted under that particular legislation between 1993 and 2003, one should surely ask instead: what indeed is the point of such legislation?



Motorway manners

Sir: Since legislation was passed making it compulsory to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving on a motorway I have found it increasingly difficult to think of people to call and topics to discuss. Occasionally I have had to resort to pretending to make a call, which I find demeaning. Is it an acceptable alternative to read correspondence or apply make-up, which I note are activities favoured by many other drivers? The Government has a duty to give us clear guidance on the matter.



Sign language

Sir: Sign in a book shop window in Bradford city centre: "Guide Dogs Welcome."