John Rentoul quotes political blogger Hopi Sen asking about the Labour Party, "What is a progressive social democratic party actually for, if it is not able to spend more money?" ("Rewriting the laws of particle politics", 25 September). The answer is obvious. It is for ensuring that employers treat their workers properly, with decent wages and working conditions. It's for protecting the environment, and regulating businesses so that they serve the interests of ordinary people. It's for nurturing the development of charitable and co-operative organisations. Substantial positive change can be done on very little money.
The party I've described sounds alarmingly distant from the Labour Party of today. Ed Miliband is hostile to the trade unions and their members, condemning strikes in which public sector workers were trying to defend their modest pensions, and trying to dilute even further these same people's influence within the party. He is destroying internal party democracy, by measures such as abolishing Shadow Cabinet elections. He appears to have no ideas on how to solve crises in care for the elderly, housing, the environment and banking. Despite the rhetoric of abandoning New Labour, he still demonstrates an ignorance of ordinary people and a naive faith in the free market, demonstrated by his apparent support for the new Purple Book group. If anything, Labour is more right wing than it's been in its 111-year history.
You report that the Labour conference planned to focus on the "squeezed middle" in British society, and fair enough, since the coalition Government which received a strong vote from this area in 2010 has no plans to do so. However, there is also the question of the "bashed bottom" – people who expect Labour to stand up for them. Tony Blair took such people for granted and over a period many deserted Labour. Let's hope Ed Miliband has a different approach.
Has anybody considered how viewing films of killings will affect the families of these soldiers when they come home ("British soldiers in Afghanistan shown 'war snuff movies'", 25 September)? These men are not just soldiers: they are fathers and sons; they have wives and girlfriends and roots in the community here in the UK. Did no one read about what happened when the Vietnam soldiers got back home? If you deliberately desensitise or traumatise people, they will act out their violence on those around them.
Hove, East Sussex
We are Italians who feel a great need to tell the world how ashamed we are to be represented by Silvio Berlusconi and his staff, including the women, who defend the indefensible, trampling down the women's dignity. Italians can't stand this any more! But why did Italians vote for him? For the same reasons for which Americans voted for Bush: on the strength of pure disinformation. Berlusconi controls three television channels with which to persuade people he is the best. Ignorance is hard to end: it requires reading and absorbing information, and the majority don't do this. To foreigners who ask: "How could Italian people vote for that man and his staff?", we answer, many people are waking up, finally.
Barbara Cinel, Paolo Comelato, Ivano Corò, Sandra Coluccia and 12 others
Castelfranco Veneto, Italy
I found Paul Vallely's article "The present is a gift to unwrap every day" particularly poignant (25 September). How many problems would cease if we lived in the moment, not dwelling on the past or fearing for the future? Thank you for a remarkable article on how to live a fulfilling human life.
Paul Valley's excellent article attributes this to the Buddha: "Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves..." It was said by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, born 1926. The Buddha saw life as dukkha or suffering: by reaching nirvana or enlightenment, one can experience sukha or pure happiness.
West Bromwich, West Midlands
It is far from sad that Henry VIII, as king of England only, is not counted a British monarch (Janet Street-Porter, 25 September). Henry VIII was as vile a monster as Hitler or Stalin. The only reason Britain can say it is Great is that it is a perpetual warmonger, punching the lights out of its enemies.
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