Chilcot: Cameron doesn’t get the point

These letters appear in the 22nd June issue of The Independent

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In his role as the poor man’s Tony Blair, David Cameron presumes to speak for the general public and for relatives of Iraq war casualties, writing to the Iraq inquiry chairman, Sir John Chilcot: “They, and I, had hoped for publication of your report by now and we are fast losing patience”. This should be the very least of Sir John’s concerns.

The inquiry team’s responsibility is not providing glib answers to mollify the public, or soothing platitudes to comfort the bereaved. They have been investigating the greatest foreign policy disaster since Suez, and one must hope their report will guide future generations of intelligence analysts, diplomats and policymakers. If that means another extended deadline, then this is far better than a failure to confront issues or investigate new leads.

Mr Cameron demonstrated from his first days in office that his grasp of strategic policy goes no further than answering Treasury demands for cuts and the spin machine’s appetite for cheap headlines. The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review contained no discernible strategy, cut defence spending without any coherent trimming of military commitments, and left Britain and her armed forces more insecure.Downing Street must not be allowed to inflict this slapdash approach on Sir John Chilcot and his team.

Apologists for Blair (notably Alastair Campbell) have pointed out that development of Iraq policy had to contend with the short-term demands of a “24-hour news cycle”. It would compound the tragedy if Chilcot’s inquiry were obstructed or curtailed by such imperatives.

Peter Rushton

London SE11

 

Legal migrant barred from university

The Supreme Court is due to hear a legal challenge this week brought by an ambitious young woman who is blocked from going to university because of her immigration status, despite having lived in the UK since she was six and being lawfully resident here. She is former head girl at her school and has four good A-levels.

She is challenging the Student Finance Regulations under which people with what is known as “discretionary” or “limited leave to remain” in the UK are no longer eligible for a student loan. Because of this little-noticed legal change, made in 2012, universities now treat these applicants as overseas students, and charge them fees several times higher than the maximum of £9,000 paid by home students.

One young man with three A-grade A-levels was unable to take up a place at Imperial College to study chemistry, because he couldn’t afford the £26,000-a-year fees. Sadly, there are many similar examples.

It cannot be right that young people who have lived in this country lawfully and been educated here most of their lives are being denied a university education and the chance to better themselves. They have done everything demanded of them, by studying hard at school and getting good qualifications, only to be denied a place at university through no fault of their own.

We urge the Government to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency in the interests of fairness and social cohesion. It is a clear block on social mobility.

Christine Blower

General Secretary  National Union of Teachers  London WC1

 

America’s fracking disaster

Dave Brown’s excellent cartoon and David Gibbs’ letter (19 July) on fracking are correct; we cannot afford it. Fracking in America has been a disaster. Labouring under $280bn of debt, fracking companies are going bankrupt on a massive scale since the oil price fell from $100 last summer.

A Cornell University study has shown that, once the huge leakage of methane from the extraction process is taken into account, electricity produced from fracked gas produces over 20 per cent more greenhouse effect than coal does.

The Government has just announced an end to support for onshore wind turbines, despite the fact that May has just seen Scotland produce 105 per cent of the energy it consumed from renewables, most of it from wind.

The Government made this announcement on the basis that wind turbines spoil the landscape. They may be interested to know that a recent study from the University of Montana has shown that three million hectares of agricultural and grazing land in America has been permanently destroyed by the huge drilling “pads”, access roads, waste water ponds and sand quarries needed for the fracking process.

A flight over Texas or North Dakota makes the devastation all too clear. If our government tries to do that in this small, beautiful island, they will have a revolution on their hands.

Aidan Harrison

Morpeth, Northumberland

 

Now that fracking is being permitted in the Fylde, can we expect to see a new tourist attraction, the Leaning Tower of Blackpool?

Richard Hunt

Solihull

 

Young extremists are nothing new

David Cameron’s stern address to the Muslim community to prevent their children taking up extremist causes brought to mind events in the 1930s.

Some 80 years ago, three of the daughters of Lord and Lady Redesdale all fell in with dubious and un-English movements: Diana left her husband and ran off with the head of the British Fascist party; Unity fled to Berlin and became a hanger-on in Hitler’s entourage and Jessica, aged 17, eloped with her cousin (a relative of Winston Churchill) and went to Spain to join the International Brigade.

There seems no evidence that the Prime Minister of the day castigated the entire British aristocracy for its failure to instil British values in the younger generation.

Disturbing as the contemporary cases are, there will always be young people who, despite their parents’ best efforts, will be fatally attracted to extremist causes. Hectoring speeches aimed at a whole sector of the population will surely do more harm than good.

Jenny Bryer

Birmingham

 

Dominic Kirkham is being simplistic (letter, 19 June) in attributing the decline in scientific inquiry in the Islamic world to suppression by religious authorities.

True, the influence of al-Ghazali should not be underplayed. But the decline in Islamic science was not precipitate. Indeed 150 years on in Damascus – and well before William Harvey in 1616 – Ibn Al-Nafis was correctly describing the way blood circulates through the body.

Other factors were also at play: for example the destruction in 1258, by the Mongols of Baghdad, and in particular most of the books in the great House of Wisdom there. The whole history of scientific advance over the centuries is one of fits and starts, stagnation and resurgence, with many factors, cultural, economic and political, at play.

Other religions have their own history of the suppression of scientific thought, as evidenced for example by the rise of creationism in the US. However, in the eyes of some, it is only Islam that can do nothing right.

John Dorken

London N10

 

Call a cab, and get your facts right

Matthew Norman (20 June) clearly enjoys seeing Uber sock it to the London taxi trade, but I do have to question his accuracy.

Do 15 minute rides in London taxis cost £25? Are all Uber drivers young Muslim men called Ali and Asif? Do all taxi drivers treat their passengers with disdain and does a taxi from Islington to Downing Street cost £40? Finally, have all cabbies ranted about wanting Muslims deported? The answer to all of the above is a very clear “No”.

I’d also be interested to see how Mr Norman’s dear old mum copes when she needs a taxi wheelchair ramp. All London taxis have them: Toyotas don’t.

If Mr Norman supports the Uber race to the bottom so much he won’t mind if I offer my own services to The Independent. I can write drivel for so much less than he does.

Graham Greenglass

Wembley, Middlesex

 

Schools on television

As a retired teacher, from the state sector, I rarely find myself in agreement with Sir Michael Wilshaw. However, I would go further than he does on the influence of popular TV programmes on schools. Such programmes provide a standard of attitudes and behaviour that many pupils seem to believe are to be emulated and replicated.

The majority of teachers are far more professional than those depicted.

Carole Lewis

Solihull

 

Play Othello, but don’t black up

As David Head (letter, 20 June) points out, many black actors have played white roles. Presumably Adrian Lester didn’t feel the need to “white up” to play Hamlet, so why should white actors “black up” for Othello? Surely the problem goes back to association with the minstrel tradition and its gross caricature.

Martin Heaton

Cheadle, Greater Manchester

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