Ian Birrell states that "countries such as Britain and the United States have a duty to stand firm with those seeking democracy" ("Syria's shadow now looms over Egypt...", 18 August). He implies that we should not "ignore the lessons of history". But what does history tell us?
Let us suppose that, as Hitler imposed Nazism on 1930s Germany, that country's army mounted a coup and deposed him. Which side should Britain and the US have supported? Given that Hitler came to power democratically and that some in the West saw him as a bulwark against communism, they might have been ambivalent or even backed his regime.
Military government is rarely benign, but democracies can also beget evil. It all depends on a nation's psyche, its constitutional arrangements and who is around at the time.
So a majority of Britons are now in favour of "British jobs for British workers" ("Public mood hardens over migrant workers", 18 August). Is this the same majority that buys goods made overseas? At times of international events such as the Olympic Games I see the Union flag flying from the windows of Renault, Volkswagen and Kia cars. I am left wondering precisely what it is that the occupants are supporting. If it is an expression of national pride, then it is a very shallow expression. Hypocrites, every one!
John Banham writes that "the national housing crisis has been a long time in the making: a lack of housing that can be afforded by young working families, while rents soar" ("Affordable homes to rent... will rebalance the property market", 18 August). That's the same John Banham who in April told the Western Morning News that he had "nothing but admiration" for what Margaret Thatcher achieved for Britain". As I remember, one of Mrs Thatcher's lasting "achievements" was the sell-off of council housing.
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Our Skills & Demand in Industry Report 2013 shows that 42 per cent of employers have expressed disappointment with the skills of new employees. GCSEs in the Stem subjects [science, technology, engineering and maths] are the first crucial stepping stone into not only the engineering and technology sector but also a wide range of careers. However, GCSEs do not always provide the level of practical experience that employers need. Apprenticeships offer school-leavers a route to industry that enables them to earn while they learn with progress to other professional qualifications. The UK needs more higher-level apprenticeships to tackle the skills gap and to meet industry demand. Students need to know that an apprenticeship is an alternative to university.
Institution of Engineering and Technology
DJ Taylor describes opponents of fee-paying education as "flat-earthers", in the mistaken belief that our objection to private schools is based on the excellent results they attain (18 August).
A strong case can be made against independent schools based on the kind of social apartheid they create. A child who attends an expensive school will never meet a child in receipt of free school meals, but when she or he becomes a government minister will still feel qualified to denigrate "scroungers" and hold forth on benefits reform.
Irish leader Eamon de Valera justified signing the book of condolence for Hitler as not to do so would have been an "unpardonable" discourtesy ("The Top Ten: Unsung Villains", 18 August). Such conscienceless formalism makes him a prime exemplar of Hannah Arendt's concept of the banality of evil. I'd put De Valera ahead of Churchill in your list.
You say the new musical The Light Princess is "loosely based on an old Scots fairy tale" (Heads Up, 18 August). The Scottish author George MacDonald wrote the fairy tale in 1864. Although little read now, he was thought to have influenced both C S Lewis and W H Auden.
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