Hunting down foxhunters, Labour infighting and others

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The Independent Online

We have the know-how to hunt down the foxhunters

Sir: Your two hunting apologist correspondents (27 September) have both ignored the existence of anti-hunt monitors who go out and film hunt activity in order to collect evidence to support their calls for a ban on the sport. I have, with others, monitored fox-hunts for nine seasons.

The collected evidence of both hunt monitors and undercover operators is perhaps the most decisive factor in the success of the campaign, as the film is shocking and distressing, and speaks for itself. In the light of this, the recycling of the cliché by Karen Baden Fuller that anti-hunt campaigners are actually anti-toff is puerile in the extreme.

Peter Walton's contribution to the debate centred on the alleged difficulty of enforcing a hunting ban. He is wrong. The group of monitors I represent has already held a meeting with our region's chief constable to explain how quarry-hunting can be distinguished from drag-hunting. We have advised on the simplest way to halt a hunt effectively to prevent further illegal activity. We have explained the accoutrements of quarry-hunting, which are easily recognised. We will be providing film to the police for training purposes if this ban is finally grasped from the clutches of Tony Blair and made law.

Another highly significant factor in enforcing a ban will be the general public. They will be more than willing to report to the police the signs of quarry-hunting which they know so well - hounds running all over the roads, invading gardens and paddocks, killing pets, careering over railway lines. I predict that they will relish the chance of reporting such activity, which is entirely absent in drag-hunting.

Hunt Monitor, Protect Our Wild Animals (POWA)
Great Haseley, Oxfordshire

Labour infighting spells election disaster

Sir: After a rather dull Liberal Democrat conference we are now in the grips of the Labour Party conference and thus the reporting of the Blair-Brown rift has escalated once more. There is supposedly the "left" of the party backing Gordon Brown in the red corner against the "right" backing Tony Blair in the blue corner.

However, surely the leftists realise that if the Chancellor were to succeed Prime Minister Blair there would be few, if any, substantial policy shifts, since Gordon Brown was a key founder of the New Labour project, and indeed it was Mr Brown who influenced many of Mr Blair's political beliefs during their shared office days at Westminster during the Eighties. Therefore, the only conclusion I am able to draw is that the Labour Party is becoming increasingly obsessed with internal personality clashes which are distracting their attention from where it should be - policy issues. It is starting to become uncannily similar to the downfall that overcame the Conservative in the 1990s when they too became fixated on infighting.

My advice to Labour Party delegates is start to focus on policy or face a disastrous election result next year.

London E1

Sir: The spotlight this week should be on the Labour party, not Tony Blair, as it is they who have failed the country.

In our limited democracy the electorate votes for a party and the party chooses its leader; and with that goes the responsibility for managing that leader. It is not enough for the Labour Party to say, "We have picked the best man and will live with his strengths and failings." Rather they should ensure that the country is governed by a team that brings the strengths of each team member to bear and none of their failings.

Being a good leader of a team is all about encouraging each member to speak their mind, listening to them and letting the team reach a consensus, which will often be different from your preconceptions. If Tony Blair will not participate as a team member and follow the consensus of his team then the Labour Party should replace him with someone who will, thereby protecting the country from the naivety and dogma of one individual.

London EC1

Sir: Referring to Tony Blair, Carrie Cooper (letter, 23 September) says, "the party still wants him as leader".

I wonder what party that would be? Back in 1997 when New Labour was busy representing itself as opposite to everything the Tory Party stood for, its membership was 400,000. Now, after nearly two terms of stifled party democracy, growing socio-economic inequality, pro-corporate neo-liberal policies and murderous neo-colonial invasions, nearly half the party membership has left - refusing to be associated with the current leadership. Some 192,000 have already voted with their feet on Blair's leadership, and even the remaining 208,000 are far from unanimously happy.


Sir: I received a card with my copy of The Independent - a card to send to Tony Blair with the message "Just say sorry".

I'm not going to send this card. I don't want Blair to apologise. I wouldn't believe him if he did. I wouldn't believe Blair if he said that the sun would rise tomorrow morning.

The only thing that I want to say to Tony Blair is one simple word: "Resign". A lot of people in Britain feel the same way. A third term? Not if we have anything to do with it.

Braishfield, Hampshire

Sir: In your "Conference Highlights" (27 September), you showed a small picture with a brief story of a protest against the Iraq War underneath. The photo is in fact of a small part of the 6,000 people who travelled to Brighton for the Trade Justice Campaign event, "Ballot on the Beach". This was fully supported by the police, who were friendly, cheerful and helpful all day. Our march was peaceful and good-humoured throughout, making a very serious point to the conference that the rules of world trade need to change, to give the poor of the world a chance.

Bewdley, Worcestershire

Sir: Will someone point out to the Labour Party conference, and in a very loud voice since it appears hard of hearing, that Mr Blair is a Deceased Prime Minister, a Former Prime Minister, a Prime Minister who has gone to meet his Maker once too often, a Prime Minister who has fallen off his perch and cannot be nailed back, a Prime Minister whose wife has already in anticipation gone on the lecture circuit, and that if the Party Formerly Known as Labour wishes to win the next election, it should bestir itself and fill the vacancy created by the demise of Mr Blair, and fast.


Bigger wind turbines

Sir: Given your otherwise sensible editorialising on the subject of Tony Blair's re-prioritisation of global warming and renewable energy solutions, it seems a pity that you have fallen - no doubt in the interests of "balance"- for a piece employing some of the favourite misinformational tactics of the anti-wind-farm ranters ("The answer is not blowing in the wind", 15 September).

The nimbys love to point out that small, badly-sited turbines don't produce a great deal of power relative to our overall requirement - but, given that the power turbines generate is proportional to the square of the blade diameter and the cube of the wind speed, this simply means that we need more, bigger turbines in windier places. Their other major criticism is that wind power is intermittent while demand is more predictable but, again, this can easily be solved. All that is required is for the surplus produced during windy times to be used for electrolysing water into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen gases and the former to be stored and distributed using the soon-to-be-redundant fossil gas infrastructure.

There are many more technological solutions which will emerge as we move away from carbon-based energy products, but in the meantime it is vital that the Government keep its nerve and maintain the pace of large-scale wind farm development. The alternative for our children and grandchildren doesn't bear thinking about.

Chairman, Ross-shire Renewable Energy Forum
Achmore, Ross-shire

Respect for Britain

Sir: Richard Askwith raises some important issues in his piece "The moral minefield" (27 September). As someone of Indian origin who settled in this country from Kenya, I believe that the liberal tendency to defend any ethnic minority unquestioningly actually does great harm to the minorities in the long run.

Those who chose to make this country their home should be prepared to respect its institutions and be positive in accepting all that is best in this society. To understand and imbibe the norms and nuances of the host society is essential for successful integration. This does not however mean that one has to abandon one's cultural heritage. Our loyalties should be firmly with this country and the host society should not feel threatened in any way. The same would and should apply to English immigrants in Spain.

To close our eyes to what is wrong and intolerant for the sake of political correctness is to jeopardise and devalue the liberal ethos.

Croydon, Surrey

Iraq responsibility

Sir: At last Tony Blair is publicly stating that the intelligence used as the basis for the Iraq invasion was "wrong". Although this could be encouraging, it is arguably a smokescreen. The fact is that the intelligence was not wrong, for the simple reason that it contained health warnings and caveats. What was wrong was the use made of the intelligence and the fact that these warnings were ignored or removed altogether.

Blair wants to draw a line under Iraq, but the only way he can do so is by publicly acknowledging some widely held beliefs: that the decision to invade Iraq was made on the basis of US policy, not intelligence (wrong or not). That the UK and US sought a UN resolution authorising the invasion, didn't get it, and went ahead anyway, breaching international law. That there was little or no planning as to what would happen following the removal of Saddam.

Blair will only draw a line under Iraq when he accepts responsibility for a litany of errors of judgement and the catastrophic consequences with which we are now all too familiar.


Sir: I was delighted to read Johann Hari's article "Beheaded hostages, slaughtered children, and the misguided 'war on global terror' " (22 September). The muddled voices of appeasement are reaching deafening levels and it is to be welcomed when a rational voice like Hari's tries to isolate the truth from the anti-Bush, anti-Blair, anti-everyone-but-the-enemy background noise.

Hari is right to call the "war on terror" a misnomer. It is time to say what we mean and declare war, not on terror, but on Islamo-fascism. We are engaged in a struggle to the death with an enemy whose aims are the destruction of secular modernity, the restoration of a medieval caliphate across the world and the imposition of barbaric Sharia law.

The only war really worth fighting is one for survival, and this is the war we have been presented with by a minority of lunatic mullahs. This is a war because there is no alternative response. Bin Laden and al-Zarqawi really don't want to have a discussion with us. We are the infidel and therefore (by their warped logic) they are obliged to kill us.

We have been fighting the forces of reaction and superstition since the Age of Enlightenment. Now is not the time for a postmodern flinch in the moment of truth.

Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire

Sir: As you point out, one reason the US banned Yusuf Islam from the USA is the report that he once donated money to an Islamic charity which the US concluded gave financial support to Hamas (profile, 25 September).

Mr Blair is rightly in agreement with Mr Bush on this whole matter of funding international terrorism. My only misgiving is that we in Britain have not yet built the many tens of thousands of prison places designed to house all the as-yet-unextradited US citizens who donated cash, intelligence and materiel over recent decades to support the IRA.


Fashion victims?

Sir: I am shocked by the images from London Fashion Week (27 September). Most of the models look like children. The fashion industry cannot cultivate this image of the vulnerable, pretty 12-year-old girl and not bear some responsibility for the extent of paedophilia in our culture.

Bonar Bridge, Sutherland

Tomorrow and tomorrow

Sir: The Empire State Building was finished in 18 months. Shanghai's new motor-racing circuit was completed in 530 days. Yet the Royal Shakespeare theatre at Stratford will close for five years to have a new stage fitted (report, 23 September). Could someone explain why?

Chesham, Buckinghamshire

Civil response

Sir: I am not a spin doctor (Pandora, 21 September). I am a civil servant of 27 years, having worked for the party now in opposition as well as the current government. I was not appointed by Alun Michael but as the result of a Government Information and Communication Service assessment centre. I met the minister for the first time after I took up the post on 13 September. He had no say in the matter. My role, like that of all GICS staff, is to explain government policy.

Chief Press Officer (Rural Affairs)
Defra, London SW1

Emergency measures

Sir: Looking at the Government's website, it seems we should all have received a booklet in August advising us how to react to emergencies. A quick check with friends and neighbours failed to reveal a single recipient. Is this an emergency?