IoS letters, emails & online postings (28 August 2011)

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The role of central government politicians is to ensure that laws are clear and precise. Police forces have a clear mandate to apply them, free from interference. Once prime ministers, metropolitan mayors or home secretaries believe they are better placed than highly trained police officers to do the job and use their access to the media to make cheap political points, we are on a downward slide.

That the Government chooses to use the "Boris" model as the basis for police and crime commissioners is the most ironic and naive political stance that I have experienced in my long diplomatic career in Africa, Asia and South America. In my travels I have witnessed the disastrous results of political interference in policing in too many places.

The politicians' decision to deride Sir Hugh Orde in such a public way, pushing their own nominations for the role of Scotland Yard Commissioner, indicates the road we are on. As the Olympics loom, the Met needs a strong police officer in charge, not a broom-wielding politician looking to the main chance.

Stephen J Hiscock

Member, Kent Police Authority

Maidstone, Kent

I live in Tottenham, behind the now burnt-out 1930s building of Carpetright. Here I have witnessed the abuse of a young boy, who happens to be a neighbour, and whose life fits the stereotype of a deprived young man who was out on the streets on Saturday 6 August. He is under the care of social services, and does not attend school, whiling away time at home, or locked out until the early hours of the morning by his mother whose life has been damaged by domestic violence and drug abuse.

What prospects does such a young man have, and where are the channels for his anger at a society and family that has ignored him at the best of times, and abused him at the worst? While students were justifiably in uproar over the rising of tuition fees earlier in the year, imagine the life of a young man who has no basic education, no prospect of a future, and not even the basic luxury of a mother or father to care about him. What happens to a young man like that? He gets lost, and every time we look at him and judge him, and every time we look at him and do not see him, we push him further and further away from us.

Yet, while I find myself theorising upon such people's lives, I am shamefully aware that at no point have I taken a moment to engage with them, and just as violence can hurt society, ignoring such people can do just as much damage.

Zaynab Dena Ziari

London N17

So John Bird, founder of The Big Issue, wants the Government to radically cut back the benefits culture, supported by Janet Street-Porter who says that "we have to make people fit for work ("A class imprisoned...", 21 August). Surely the priority, however, in a country with 2.5 million unemployed is to create the jobs for individuals to take up? Otherwise disillusionment sets in, as many go on scheme after scheme that doesn't lead to a full-time position.

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

The main reason why we, along with all English-speaking countries, have exceptionally large numbers of unemployable illiterate and innumerate youngsters is because learning to read and write English is uniquely difficult; and without literacy, maths is hard too. While English spelling remains as it is, and with literacy becoming an increasingly more important factor in employability, the percentage of unemployable young and old will not become any smaller.

Masha Bell

Wareham, Dorset

The university fees system is not "loading almost £200bn of debt on to the students of the future" ("Student debt will soar..." 21 August). It is providing the money for courses to the universities, and no student pays a penny up front. No demand is made for repayment during a course, and no interest is added during this period. Only when the graduate earns at least £420 per week will they have to start paying – at £16 per week. Any sum remaining is written off after a maximum of 30 years. There is never a responsibility on the student to repay any lump sum. Sounds a reasonable deal to me.

Michael Meadowcroft


Rich businessmen who move their businesses abroad (James Dyson) or avoid paying tax (Philip Green) can still be knighted and tell this country what to do (Margareta Pagano, Business Comment, 21 August). Have they no shame?

Jenny Bushell

London SW19

I was issued with an RAF whistle when I was trained for aircrew in 1943 ("Twenty holiday myths exposed", 21 August). Blowing a whistle when the rescue launch arrived saved energy. You had 10 minutes of survival in the winter, considerably shortened if you started shouting. Attached to the collar, it was also a handy icebreaker with girls. It worked for me, anyway.

Ellis Berg

Selsey, West Sussex

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