Geldof, Iraq and others

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On separated parents, Solomon was wiser than Geldof

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On separated parents, Solomon was wiser than Geldof

Sir: Bob Geldof is quite bonkers to suggest that divorced parents should share their children's time equally ("Saint or sinner?", 16 October).

Would he have liked that when he was a child? Does any child want their life divided equally between two homes? Which home would they go to school from? Which one would their friends visit? Where would they keep their favourite things? Where would their own special room be? Who would care for them when they were ill? Solomon was right - cutting a child in half is no solution to a squabble.

In the 1980s when I was bringing up children up alone, divorced fathers were so busy trying to get out of paying child maintenance that they were quite happy to to settle for access every other weekend and a week in the school holidays. They didn't bleat about equal rights because, for the most part, they were unwilling to help support their children.

Now that society compels them to pay up, they've started banging on about equality, dressing up in Batman suits and scaling monuments. A cynic might ask if they would bother with all this if they could still get away with "cost-free" fatherhood. They did not put their children first then, and they are not putting them first now.

London SW14

Sir: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown asserts that "it is still overwhelmingly men who create terror and violence within relationships", ("Beware fundamentalist views on marriage", 11 October). According to the British Crime Survey around one in six men will suffer domestic abuse during their lifetime, compared with one in four women. That's more or less equal.

What worries me far more, though, is that she seems to think that, even assuming her false assertion were true, this could justify the imposition of a gender bar on the overwhelming majority of decent, loving fathers who see no earthly reason why their children shouldn't enjoy the full and equal participation of both their parents in their upbringing following separation, as they did before.

I can't see any fundamental difference between Yasmin's attitude and the kind of prejudices which were used to justify racial segregation in South Africa and the United States, or indeed the marginalisation of women from political life in Britain at the beginning of the last century.

Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire

British troops called to rescue Bush

Sir: The US Army is finding recruitment increasingly difficult; troops are being forced to stay in Iraq beyond their promised "out" date; some US troops in Baghdad have refused to carry out a mission. George Bush has been forced to deny publicly that there will be a draft - and last week, the US asked for British troops from Basra to come to Baghdad to help them out.

If we comply with this request, it will be to help George Bush out in the forthcoming election. The US desperately needs more troops in Iraq, but politically Bush cannot take the necessary steps to get more people to sign up. Instead, he is hoping that his only willing ally, Britain, will come to his rescue, yet again.

Talk about poodles.

Barnstaple, Devon

Sir: We are now informed that British troops are to be deployed in other parts of Iraq to allow the Americans to concentrate on reclaiming Fallujah. As it is anticipated that the troops involved will be home for Christmas the redeployment is obviously imminent.

The American moves to reclaim Fallujah cannot be dissociated from the presidential election, since a victory, in the days before the election, would be of obvious benefit to President Bush's campaign. Helping the President is not the duty of the British Prime Minister or our troops, however close an ally we may be.

If the Government embarks on this mistaken course of action I trust that the Labour Party will take action. If not, the British electorate will do so in our own election next year.

Marton in Cleveland, Middlesbrough

Sir: Paul Dunwell (letter, 15 October) argues that the Iraqi people are (or ought to be) grateful for the invasion of Iraq, stating that "we Brits" would be happy for an invading force to exploit our resources in return for removing a dictator.

Would we Brits still be happy if the invading forces imprisoned our sons, brothers and fathers, abused, tortured and raped them and send souvenir photos to the folks back home? What if the invading forces hadn't thought beyond the initial invasion, and allowed the country to descend into anarchy?

Speak for yourself, Mr Dunwell.


Sir: Would I sicken Paul Dunwell even further if I said that I found the "finding" of the mass graves, just as Mr Blair is under growing pressure to apologise, a little too much for coincidence. It's hardly as if nobody knew about their existence, so how come after nearly 18 months of occupation they are only being "discovered", now just when Messrs Blair and Bush are on the ropes?

New Barnet, Hertfordshire

Sir: Daniel Rubin (letter, 13 October) says, "It is distasteful to compare the actions of the USA and UK troops, however inexcusable, to those of a murderer like Muqtada al-Sadr".

Presumably he finds this distasteful because our brave troops have, on our Government's ill-advised orders, killed thousands more Iraqis than Mr Sadr and other Iraqi terrorists have killed Westerners. Maybe he finds this distasteful because those dead Iraqis were also husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandparents, relatives and friends. Perhaps he also finds it distasteful because a small proportion of the multiple-bereaved are unsurprisingly bloodthirsty and bent on revenge.

I find it all pretty distasteful too, but it's not so much the comparison itself as the heavy dose of reality that follows.

London NW6

Saving for a pension

Sir: Jeremy Warner (13 October) makes a surprising omission in his commentary on the Pensions Commission report, which is the impact of employers reducing their commitment to pensions.

This is an important theme in the report, and indeed the commission says that, in relation to the projected decline in pensions saving: "The biggest element of this decline is the reduction in the generosity of employer pension contributions."

We can see that in the voluntarist system many employers are no longer willing to play their part. The TUC believes that only greater compulsion on employers and employees to save can put this systemic fault right.

The experience of Australia shows us that mandatory pension contributions can boost both pensions coverage and savings. As the commission has reported, the Reserve Bank of Australia found that compulsion has largely added to, rather than displaced, other saving. The bank estimated that almost 70 cents of every dollar in superannuation is additional savings. In addition Australia has achieved private pensions coverage of around 90 per cent of the workforce. In the UK only half the workforce is covered.

The TUC is not calling for the exact Australian model to be implemented in the UK, but for a debate about which model would best suit our savers. In particular, if there is more compulsion to contribute to pensions introduced, the limited earnings of the low-paid must be protected.

TUC General Secretary
London WC1

Sir: In the current debate on pensions, we seem to have forgotten how previous generations cared for their elders. I have recently been sorting through old family papers and came upon some evidence of this.

In the 1940s, my father-in-law gave his widowed mother £5 a month, while also supporting a wife, small son and his own mother-in-law, who had lost her home in the blitz. He was a teacher at the time, only earning an average salary.

Going farther back to the early 1920s, my great-grandparents were helped by their son, who gave them £2 a month. He too was just on average wages as an ironmonger, with a family of his own to provide for, which included medical bills (no NHS then) and fees to put a daughter through teacher training college

While to us these amounts seem tiny, in those days they were substantial payments which must have meant some sacrifice to the givers. How many middle-aged people today would consider giving an equivalent amount to their parents? Most seem to be more concerned about how much their parents are going to leave them and how to avoid the inheritance tax they might possibly have to pay.

Runcorn, Cheshire

Gays and liberalism

Sir: Your leading article on Rocco Buttiglione, the EU justice commissioner (14 October) wrongly accuses him of illiberal views.

The basic principle of liberalism is tolerance for others' lifestyles, but this does not imply that one has to approve of what one tolerates. The philosophy of liberalism cannot pronounce with any authority on religious matters, in this case Mr Buttiglione's view that homosexuality is a sin. Its scope is the distribution of rights within civil society.

Thus in thinking that homosexuality is a sin he has done nothing illiberal. Only were he to seek to make it a crime, a move that he specifically repudiated, could he have been accused of illiberalism.


Sir: The implication of your leading article on Mr Buttiglione's ineligibility for the post of Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner in Brussels is that all Roman Catholics who accept their church's teaching on sexual morality and family life should be excluded from public life in the European Union. This would exclude most of the citizens of new member states such as Poland and Lithuania and would have disbarred the founding fathers such as Maurice Schumann and Jean Monnet.

London W11

Terrorism suspect

Sir: I read with interest Robert Verkaik's article about an individual known as "G" ("Judge tells Blunkett to relax restrictions on terror suspect", 15 October).The article states that "G" "has been forced to live in a small one-bedroom housing association flat" and that "under the terms of his house arrest he is denied visitors and all contact with the outside world". I also noted the extensive quotations from "G" 's legal adviser.

Whilst it is, of course, open to "G"' to leave the United Kingdom at any time, your readers may also be interested to learn that the bail conditions "G" is subject to were put forward by him and his legal team and, contrary to your report, he has unrestricted access to his immediate family.

Home Secretary
Home Office, London SW1

Wind myths

Sir: Michael McCarthy concisely addresses issues raised in the public inquiry into the proposed wind farm on Romney Marsh (report, 13 October). However, in the process he reproduces two popular misconceptions.

It is reported that the proposed wind farm would only produce enough electricity to power 1,000 homes - the true figure is closer to 35,000 homes. It is also reported that "more energy is consumed in constructing a wind farm than will ever be saved by it". In fact, a wind turbine produces more energy in its first six months of operation than is consumed in the processes of production and construction.

Head of Grid & Technical Affairs
British Wind Energy Association
London N1

No misery here

Sir: I did not announce "more misery" for users of London's transport system (Pandora, 13 October). On the contrary, I announced an unprecedented £10bn, five-year investment plan to transform London's transport system - the biggest investment programme the capital has seen since the Second World War.

Mayor of London
London SE1

Our Turkish allies

Sir: Turkey is European geographically, in that part of its territory lies within Europe. As Mr Westbury (letter, 15 October) points out, in the past it has been very un-European in outlook, but in recent years successive governments have made significant steps to come in line with European values. There is still a long way to go, and EU membership is not guaranteed unless they fulfil the criteria, but if we reject Turkey we will thrust them back into the maelstrom of Middle Eastern politics. I would rather have then as an ally.

Keighley, West Yorkshire

Abortion law

Sir: You reported (11 October) that the British Pregnancy Advisory Service had been advising Britons to travel abroad for abortions later than the British legal limit of 24 weeks. What startled me was how their spokesperson said that not to do so would be "morally reprehensible". I fail to understand how it is "morally reprehensible" not to flout British law, and not to have unborn children killed at a viable age. Just what does this say about our morality as a nation?

Abingdon, Oxfordshire

Nation of victims

Sir: The Spectator article about Liverpool's reaction to Ken Bigley's death ("Boris manages to offend an entire city", 16 October) is unfair in one major respect. It ascribes to that city a mawkishness which, since the death of the Princess of Wales, has been a feature of the country as a whole. Victimhood is now deeply embedded in the national psyche. No doubt our enemies have noticed this.

Eastcote, Middlesex