Letters: A day out with the toffs who snaffle EU subsidies

The following letters appear in the July 23 edition of The Independent

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“Why can’t the countryside be governed by the people who actually understand it?” asks the headline on Nigel Farage’s column of 19 July. I know that Ukip harks back to “the good old days”, but isn’t the 18th century going a bit far?

The people who understand the countryside are those who earn their living there by producing our food. If Nigel Farage wanted to get an idea of the countryside he should have gone to any of the big regional agricultural shows and spoken to productive members of rural society. 

Instead he went as a guest of the Country Landowners’ Association to the annual Game Fair held at Blenheim Palace – an event for the country’s wealthiest elite and gun-toting City types, to whom the countryside is a noisy playground, an onshore tax-haven and a conduit through which they can expropriate vast amounts of EU agricultural subsidy in the form of the “single farm payment”.

In the rest of the EU these payments go almost entirely to working family farms. In the UK they are snaffled away by those who own the land, either by claiming the subsidy before renting the land to those who work it, or by forcing up rents to such a level that all of the subsidy goes to the landowner.

It is shocking for Mr Farage to say that Ukip would limit the EU payment going to any individual; the EU has been trying to do this for years , thwarted by the ultra-rich British establishment, his hosts at Blenheim, lobbying the UK government against any limit.

Aidan Harrison 
Rothbury, Northumberland


I visited a small farm which is in an EU “stewardship” scheme. There were hares everywhere on the wide field margins. If I were a hare, I wouldn’t vote for Nigel Farage.

Alison Brackenbury
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire


MH17 reveals gaping hole in air safety

Media coverage since the loss of MH17 seems to focus on the rights and wrongs of the various criminals involved, but to me as an engineer the terrible loss of 298 persons is a result of the failure of a system, the air transport system that is tasked with keeping us all safe.

No aircraft had any business overflying Ukraine in the last few weeks as evidence mounted that weapons being used were a growing threat to civil aviation. The weak link in the chain seems to me to be that a country is responsible for certifying its own airspace, when there are reasons of national pride and competence, not to mention over-flight fees, that could cloud local officials’ judgement.

There will always be the Putins of the world but the airline industry, by addressing this gaping hole in our air transport protocols, will go farther to prevent further atrocities than any amount of moral indignation.

John Holdsworth
London E14


Yes, McVey should keep quiet

So poor Esther McVey will sit at Cameron’s Cabinet table but will not be allowed to speak (Matthew Norman, 21 July). No surprise there.

She has in recent months visited the school where two of my nieces go, to inspire the young female sixth-form students. She showed a clear lack of interest in them or their concerns for their uncertain job future. But they noticed her distinct interest in the press cameras that were in the same room, so much so that the students renamed her “Esther McMe”.

One 17-year-old said Esther would do well to take the cotton wool out of her ears and shove it in her mouth. Perhaps Cameron had the same thought?

Anna Christie


Pictures of the victims of war

I agree with Robert Fisk (21 July) about the censoring of news pictures from war zones, and especially from Gaza. The coy phrase “some viewers may find the pictures disturbing” is in itself disturbing to most thoughtful people.

If pictures were on our TV screens showing a parent running in terror carrying her child with a limb torn off or half its face blown away, instead of the sanitised pictures of wrapped bodies on the way to burial, how long would public outrage be contained?

After a few days of censored pictures and action shots of long-range guns or helicopter gunships the public switch off; we have seen it all before. Let the world see the real effect of high explosive on human bodies, not its affect on piles of concrete rubble, and the outrage would demand it stop immediately.

Gary Kirk
Burnley, Lancashire


I find Robert Fisk’s suggestion that we should be shown the uncensored pictures of dead bodies in war zones most unsavoury. It affronts the very essence of a civilised society.

If it were to prevent war I could understand, but it won’t. Instead it will create even more hatred and a craving for revenge, which, in the Middle East, will recruit yet more bloodthirsty jihadis.

The last thing we need is more voyeuristic pornography on our television screens.

Stan Labovitch


Wrong place for a statue of Gandhi

The proposal to erect a statue to Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square is a stunt worthy of Tony Blair’s spin machine. It shows a lack of understanding of history and is a blatant tool of diplomacy.

Gandhi is certainly worth commemorating: he was a great man and a key figure in promoting non-violence. However, this is not the way to commemorate him or the place to do it.

Gandhi was primarily interested in moral and ethical issues, not in participating in parliamentary democracy. He led the Congress boycott of the 1920 elections, which began a process of devolution of powers within a parliamentary system, allowing responsibility in certain subjects to Indian ministers. Thereafter, he was involved more in obstructing constitutional change than promoting it, culminating in his call for mass civil disobedience at the moment when the Japanese invasion in 1942 was threatening India.

There is already a very fine statue to Gandhi in Tavistock Square, London, now known by many as “Pea   ce Park”. Parliament Square, standing near his arch-critic Winston Churchill, is inappropriate.

Gandhi is too often used as a convenient icon, whilst neglecting his real messages. A much better commemoration of the Mahatma would be the provision of scholarships for overseas students in law (Gandhi’s chosen subject), human rights, and business ethics.

Philip Woods
London W5


An appointment with shameless commerce

My GP surgery have just installed an on-line appointments system and, guess what, it cost them nothing. Wonderful! Except of course it isn’t.

If I had known it was a freebie before I used it I would not have touched it with a barge-pole, because one of the things which you learn is that free sites are not to be trusted. 

I got a load of trouble in the shape of pop-up adverts. My computer started to look like the Blackpool sea front. That people think they have the right to put stuff I do not want and cannot easily remove on my computer without my permission makes me fume. It cost me £50 to get MacAfee to do it for me.

I understand that the suppliers of the service are completely unapologetic. They say “That’s how we make our money”  and “people can get pop-up blockers”. Understood, but I resent the onus being put on me to pay keep out stuff I do not want. I know I have to do this with “cowboy” sites, which I do by simply ignoring them, but I do not expect to have to put up with this from my doctor!

It doesn’t give you much confidence in business morality which, in my view, is rapidly going downhill. I do not want the Health Service joining in this decline.

Dudley Dean
Maresfield, East Sussex


Assisted dying is all about choice

It was very difficult to read Robyn Appleton’s description of his father’s final hours (letter, 19 July) without emotion. On the face of it, the letter made a powerful case for perseverance with the status quo regarding assisted suicide.

However it brought into focus the critical issue here. Were the law to change in favour of Lord Falconer’s private member’s Bill, Mr Appleton’s father would still have had the option to see out his life in pain or to choose to end it all, albeit assisted. As things stand, those of us who would welcome the choice will still have no such option.

Philip Stephenson


Superbugs on  the rampage

In your report “Shock find of superbugs in river alarms scientists” (19 July) sewage-treatment plants are described as giant “mixing vessels” where antibiotic resistance can spread between microbes. With increasing outbreaks of ebola virus in West Africa, and smallpox being regenerated in laboratories, is this nature’s WMD?

Mike Loveland
London SE1