IoS letters, emails & online postings (5 September 2010)

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Which language does Katy Guest suggest we learn and maintain for the two weeks out of 52 that we may need to call upon it ("What's the Spanish for 'lazy Brit'?", 29 August)? My "dos cervezas por favor" would be greeted with equally blank looks in the bars of Mykonos, on a terrace overlooking the Adriatic or in a leafy Breton cafe.

It's a myth, peddled by the middle-class press, that we are a nation of drunken, boorish "tattooed lobsters" (Jeremy Laurance in your Travel section) and that all foreign nationals are flowingly eloquent and articulate in our mother tongue. I don't expect the people I meet while abroad to be fluent in English, and after decades of continental holidaying, I can honestly say they are not. Most of the local people I converse with when purchasing goods and services communicate in a hotchpotch of pidgin English combined with a series of shrugs and grunts or simply shove a hand out as the cash register pings. English is taught in Europe because it is the language of business. Money talks, regardless of the dialect.

Mark Coyle


The length of hedgerow in Britain has remained largely stable for the past decade, compared with previous ones ("Are we losing the fight to save our hedgerows?", 29 August). There has been a small decline in countryside hedges but house and road building have contributed to this. The most significant "loss" in hedgerows during this time has been a result of what are classed as classic shrubby hedgerows developing into lines of trees. Farmers recognise their responsibility to protect and manage the countryside. England has some 550,000km of hedgerows: 82 per cent of farmers cut their hedges at specific times to avoid harming nesting birds and almost half now adopt a two- or three-year cutting regime which provides important berries and nuts for wildlife.

Dr Andrea Graham

Countryside adviser, NFU

Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire

If David Miliband is right that the Labour Party yearns to move on from Iraq, he ought to recognise that as its leader he would make this more difficult for the membership than someone who was not an MP at the time of the crucial vote, or who voted against the war ("I can build a coalition across the party", 29 August). Not only would the election of such a candidate draw a clear line in the sand, while sending a strong message of apology for such a massive error of judgement, but it would be born out of something that the voting public no longer believes is possible for any politician: self-sacrifice.

Bill Haymes


A Labour government created legislation which required all local authorities to provide permanent sites for travellers ("Government to give cash to councils that build travellers' sites", 29 August). This was rescinded by the next Tory government. But now, at a time of financial difficulty, we pay for something from our taxes which was once already in place. The lesson? Don't make changes when first in power to please the most vocal. You will only live to regret it.

Roger F Fisher


Paul Vallely states that a VAT increase will affect the poor more "because they spend a greater proportion of their income on goods and services than do the rich". ("There's nothing 'progressive' about poverty," 29 August). I suspect that by the time they have paid their rent (non-VATable), food (zero-rate VAT) and heat and lighting (5 per cent VAT, not increasing), the problem for the poor is that they have very little left to spend at all.

Pat Johnson

Hexham, Northumberland

You report that the backdrop to the Chilean mine disaster was a lack of safety measures by mine employers and the legacy of fascist dictator Pinochet in terms of weak or non-existent employment law. Do those Tories who praised Pinochet as a robust leader and who don't think that health and safety is important have any thoughts now?

Keith Flett

London N17

We applaud efforts by young people to get involved in blogging and politics ("The internet comes of age", 29 August). But the decision to close a Westminster play scheme referred to in your article has nothing to do with Westminster Council. This was taken by an independent company.

Mike Potter

Head of Commissioning, Parenting & Early Intervention, Westminster Council London SW1

As Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman had no children, whoever David Campbell Bannerman is descended from, it is not "C-B" ("Who is mad enough to lead Ukip?" 29 August). C-B was something of a Europhile, speaking French, German and Italian and holidaying on continental Europe. From his actions and inclinations it is hard to think that he would have had any time for Ukip.

Brian Jones

Garforth, Leeds

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