Letters: A great day for British democracy

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, 31st Aug, 2013

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I do not think David Cameron suffered a humiliating defeat in the Commons on Thursday. Rather he showed statesmanship in letting the House of Commons decide if we should follow America into a third conflict, and MPs, listening to their constituents, decided against it, bearing in mind the results of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

It was a great day for British democracy, when the Commons showed MPs are not merely fodder to be whipped into voting at their leaders’ command. That is what leads to low voting turnout and low party memberships.

As a result of our MPs’ actions the American Congress is now too asking to be consulted. If Obama feels compelled to go ahead with air strikes for fear of appearing indecisive, and France wants to appear a bigger player on the world scene than it is by supporting him, so be it. Britain is an independent nation with a mind of its own.

Valerie Crews, Beckenham, Kent

I sing praises to our Prime Minister, our MPs and our parliamentary democracy. Mr Cameron, appalled by the atrocities in Syria, believed that we should join the Americans in bombing Syria.

He asked for Parliament’s blessing; 40 per cent voted in favour and 60 per cent voted against or abstained. Mr Cameron, in true statesmanlike manner, accepted this judgement and we are now not going to be embroiled in this civil war.

I also wish to give thanks to Mr Cameron for his misjudgement in bringing this matter to the vote before the UN inspectors had completed their report. If the inspectors did find conclusive evidence of Assad’s complicity my judgement is that the Parliamentary vote would then likely have gone marginally in favour of military action.

Andy Turney, Dorchester

What’s all this talk about “humiliation”?

The reputation of Parliament, hardly currently high, much strengthened. Hurrah! The leadership competence of the Leader of the Opposition much enhanced. Hurrah! The exemplary respect of the Prime Minister for Parliament and clearly demonstrated. Hurrah! A good day for Parliament and people.

Oh, and we shall not be taking part in killing any Syrians.

Diane Brace, London N1

I feel an enormous sense of relief after the Commons vote on Syria.

For a generation past, Mr Cameron and his predecessors have strutted around telling others what to do and putting people’s backs up in countries near and far.

In the 1960s and 1970s Britain adapted to the end of empire with good grace, recognising that our future lay as a responsible partner in the European project. Then the posturing began, with Margaret Thatcher’s rhetoric about “putting the ‘Great’ back into Great Britain”.

So we have retained a bloated military establishment and sense of the country’s importance, alongside an economy that splutters and stagnates.

What a boon it will be if Thursday’s vote signals a new realism, accepting our place as a country with substantial influence but a fragile economy, whose role lies in quiet and constructive co-operation with our European neighbours and others, rather than maintaining this ugly, holier-than-thou attitude.

Tom Lines, Brighton

The parliamentary vote against the government’s motion on the principle of military intervention in Syria makes me ashamed to be British.

Ashamed because the country that I love has seen fit to abandon the vast majority of Syrian people to the wiles of a callous dictator. Ashamed because we will not stand shoulder to shoulder with other countries and accept our responsibility as a democratic nation. 

Those who will surely complain at the arrival of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees when Assad takes his revenge will get short shrift from me. What do you expect those so remorselessly persecuted to do, remain there and be slaughtered?

Henry Page, Newhaven, East Sussex

On Syria,  what would  David Miliband have done? He would have supported Cameron and the USA unquestioningly. Can we now accept that the right brother won, and the right brother lost ?

Bill Cooke, Manchester

Why is it acceptable to have nuclear weapons but not chemical weapons?

Dr John Doherty, Stratford-upon-Avon

“Bacon-and-egg eating surrender monkeys”?

Colin Burke, Manchester

Make us vote, say the young

I think the voting age should be left at 18 and many young people agree (leading article, 27 August). As a governor of a high school and a borough councillor who is a “corporate parent” I have contact with several.

However I disagree with your view that compulsory voting at 18 will not work. Citizenship is part of the school curriculum. It would be a natural progression to insist that young people vote and put into practice what they have learnt. We are assured that there will be a box to tick if the voter supports “None of the above” There will be a captive audience as, after 2015, all young people must be in education or training till 18.

The young people I have spoken to say “Why not – it would mean I have to vote at least once and I might find it less intimidating. I might like it!” Any encouragement is to be welcomed.

Celia Jordan, Warrington

Might I make one suggestion as to how the recommendation of the Institute for Public Policy Research, that a “None of the above” option should be included on ballot papers, might be vastly improved? If that “candidate” were to get the largest share of the vote, then all the others should forfeit their deposits and a new election should take place in which they would be barred from standing.

Martin D Stern, Salford, Greater Manchester

We have compulsory voting , here in Australia, and it makes politicians lazy on contacting and communicating with the voters, because they know we have to turn up and have our names crossed off the roll.

Don’t go down our path; it will only make the political classes even more remote than they are now.

Robert Pallister, Punchbowl, New South Wales, Australia

That historic speech in 1963

Martin Luther King’s Washington speech is often called “electrifying” but as one who was actually there 50 years ago I have to say the first 15 minutes were pretty tedious. It was not until he finally went “off-script” and worked the crowd with the rhetoric of his “I have a dream” riff that those around me at the mirror lake started to respond.

I was then a 20-year-old kid on a sports scholarship who came to hear Peter Paul & Mary, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan rather than speeches from trade unionists and black firebrands.

Given President Kennedy’s caution, it was not clear where civil rights were headed and Lyndon Johnson was never given the credit he deserved for driving the legislation. Today black people occupy positions in the US government and services that are unimaginable in Europe, but such an outcome was not obvious on that sultry day in 1963.

Dr John Cameron, St Andrews

A child of the great outdoors

It was interesting to read of David Bond’s Project Wild Thing (letter, 30 August). It echoes my sentiments; we need to get children outside. I would however like to report that all is not lost. At one of my Edinburgh Book Festival events a 10-year-old boy not only knew that primrose leaves turn vinegar yellow but also the Latin name for the rare Scottish primrose found on Orkney (Primula scotia), which  shouldn’t be foraged.

I worry that opportunities for children to appreciate “wildness” and absorb knowledge of our countryside will become a class issue, in much the same way that British children are often divided by parental food choices.

Fiona Bird, Askernish, Isle of South Uist

Glorification of bullfighting

In Evgeny Lebedev’s article (Magazine, 24 August), his acceptance of the primitive “sport” of bullfighting (described as a “match”) seems to be based on faulty reasoning: that because he has “eaten and hunted too many animals and seen the reality of our own food industry too clearly”, any attempt to bring to an end the pitiless, endless, relentless cruelty of our species to other creatures must be derided and dismissed as “sentimentality”.

Mr Lebedev sticks in a bit of balance here and there amid the glorification and admiration, but it is not convincing; this article does nothing to enhance the civilised reputation of The Independent.

Julie Harrison, Hertford

Hospital food

I have worked in hospital catering for 18 years, and I can say that most clinicians and staff do eat the same food as the patients (letter, 30 August). So if there are issues, perhaps people assume that is the best it will ever be. Most caterers want to provide quality service. Sadly there has been a culture of cuts, despite the benefits of good food to patients.

D J Cook, Southampton

Clans gathering

I’m glad there was a bias towards publishing letters from McCluskeys of Middlesex in the 30 August edition of your paper: Andrew from Staines and Jim from Twickenham. This can only mean it’s the turn of the McKenzies of Lincolnshire next. I’ll alert them.

Ian McKenzie, Lincoln

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