I can never excuse what Jon Venables and Robert Thompson did to James Bulger, but I know, having been brought up in a very abusive household, that the child I was when I was 10 is not the person I am now, and the choices I made (most of them the wrong choices) I would never make now.
To think that these boys who committed this murder at 10 have no chance of redemption in our society makes me feel very sad and shows that the effects of child abuse in the household are not understood. We can and should lay most of the blame on parents who neglect their duty to teach children love, empathy and respect.
The fact that Thompson, who was always the more intelligent out of the two, has been able to make a life and seems to have escaped the pull of drink, drugs and violence, shows that if Venables had received the correct support – spiritual support being one of the things that was needed – then things might have turned out differently for him, too.
Harthill, North Lanarkshire
In September 2002, Sir Menzies Campbell, speaking for the Liberal Democratic Party, told the House of Commons that Saddam Hussein "most certainly has chemical and biological weapons and is working towards a nuclear capacity". He added that the now famous dossier "contains confirmation of information that we either knew or most certainly should have been willing to assume". It is therefore odd to read his condemnation of the decision by ministers and MPs to intervene in Iraq ("Iraq was always wrong. Now we have proof", 25 July). I accept that minds can change, just as I have changed my mind on the need to draw down in Afghanistan and remove Nato from a confrontation in this majority-Muslim region of the world. We need a new geo-political strategy of containment, not confrontation of the direct challenges to democracy. But I assume responsibility for previous decisions or thinking and I hope Sir Menzies will do likewise.
Denis MacShane MP
House of Commons
Menzies Campbell calls each of the Labour leadership candidates "a denier, a Simon Peter" for their current refusals to "endorse the decision to go to war in March 2003 which they then supported". This accusation of inconsistency can only be accurately levelled at David Miliband and Andy Burnham. Neither Ed Balls nor Ed Miliband had been elected to Parliament in March 2003, and Diane Abbott voted against the UK's participation in the Iraq war.
I spent 10 years as one of the Brits in the Dordogne that Dom Joly targets ("I'm not racist but...", 25 July). The majority, including myself, did not benefit from a prep school education but did make valiant efforts to master the French language, and respect the French way of life. One friend has just been elected to the committee of his local commune, after only an O-level in French 40 years ago. Those who embarrass us by "repeating themselves louder" are usually holidaymakers, who do so the world over. Brits in the Dordogne (and all over France) are mastering French, and succeeding.
Ella Posten's comment about washing lines is spot on (Letters, 25 July). It highlights the huge total reduction in energy flow that using them achieves compared with using spin dryers, tumble dryers and radiators. The provision of washing-line spaces would also bring a much needed constraint on just how close together people in new developments can be made to live.
Chris Maume asserts that the astrological almanac writers failed to predict the Plague and the Great Fire (Radio, 25 July). On the contrary, the prolific William Lilly, in a pamphlet published in 1648, examined the position of the stars for 1665 and suggested that in that year there would be "a strange catastrophe of human affairs" in England, and a grand catastrophe "ominous to London... by reason of sundry fires and a consuming plague". He followed this up in his Monarchy or No Monarchy by a further prediction of a great fire in London. This was taken so seriously that, after the event in 1666, he was accused of starting it in order to make his prophesy come true.
Mosman, New South Wales
It is not hard to get schoolchildren to do five hours of sport a week ("What are we getting from the Olympics?", 25 July). If state schools opened for a full day from 8.30am until 5.30pm, as they should, there would be plenty of time.
The issue is not that "Ed Balls twice hitched a lift in Lord Black's jet" (25 July). It is whether, in the New Labour tradition, he felt "extremely relaxed" about doing so.
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