IoS letters, emails & online postings (9 February 2014)

The article "Ignore Brand and vote, teens urged" (2 February) fails to "engage with" Brand's insights (and with the frustration of those who care but feel impotent).

The electoral reform movement puts forward conflicting messages:

1. They inform us that the vast majority of us would be wasting our time voting (because current voting processes will ignore most our votes).

2. They urge us all to register and vote.

Teens are not fools. They will not buy this muddled pair of messages. Brand is right in his analysis, however, he failed to provide a constructive alternative. The electoral reform movement should promote the following strategy:

1. Urge citizens to register (to show you care, and want to engage).

2. Urge citizens to vote (to show you care, and so on).

3. Urge citizens to spoil their votes (to show your disgust and that you want to engage).

4. Campaign for legislation to force official results of elections to include "voted but spoiled", "registered but did not vote", and "eligible but did not register" in addition to the votes cast.

5. Until the state enforces honest reporting of results, the electoral reform movement should join forces to calculate/estimate and republish honest versions of each result, so that all those registering, voting, and spoiling will know that their actions will be recorded and reported (they may well be shown together to have "won" many elections).

6. The Independent newspapers should lead this campaign, should recruit ambassadors, and should publish the honest versions of the election results (as above) as part of that campaign.

Tim Knight


Very refreshing to read such an intelligent, honest essay on the general refusal to tackle climate change (Paul Vallely, 2 February). The ruling class would never willingly tolerate re-ordering a financial system that entailed ceasing to make money the arbiter of all things. An alternative, sane economic system would weigh economic outcomes in terms of the well-being of the earth and all living beings. Destructive fantasies of limitless growth measured in GDP or any other numerical yardstick that waves a triumphant flag in the middle of a wasted world would be anathema.

Derek Robertson

Gateshead, Tyne and Wear

When Dr Beeching so ruthlessly closed many of the branch lines of the wonderful rail network that had taken years to construct, many thought he was acting in too much haste without any thought to the future.

The concerns shown at the time have now been illustrated perfectly with the problem currently facing railway travellers in the South-west.

If Dr Beeching had not closed so many other lines in Devon there would be alternative routes from London to Plymouth and Cornwall, avoiding the line running by the sea and through Dawlish.

Colin Bower


It is plain wrong to tell customers "not to bother growing plants in peat-free compost" ("For peat's sake…", 2 February).

Green composts can provide the same level of nutrients while controlling liverwort in container-grown shrubs and without the need to add chemical wetting agents. Crucially, they help divert green waste from landfill, preventing methane emissions which damage the climate. But it is vital that customers know how to distinguish quality.

We run the compost and home composting certification schemes. Customers can have confidence in green compost products bearing these logos. The results would be very different if Which? repeated the exercise using only certified compost products.

Jeremy Jacobs

Technical director, Organics Recycling Group, Renewable Energy Association, London SW1

DJ Taylor is being somewhat churlish about the songs of Pete Seeger (2 February). I agree that some of his lyrics now sound a bit cringeworthy and dated, but he was a child of his time. And just as Haydn inspired the magic of Mozart, so Seeger helped unlock the greatness of Bob Dylan, who took protest songs and music in general to hitherto unimaginable heights.

Stan Labovitch

Windsor, Berkshire

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