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Thursday 7 June 2012
Letters: A Jubilee North Korea might envy
Oh what an outpouring of sycophantic fawning and scraping from the media these last few days about the Jubilee. North Korea can surely only admire such a unison of gushing euphoric adulation in which we as a nation supposedly come together.
I have no animus against this elderly lady, but my mind does grind to a sort of shuddering stop when an interviewer asks one of the adoring masses if they had sandwiches with them to sustain them while they waited to see boats floating down the Thames.
No labour camps for those of us who dissent, but disapproval was in the air at the thought of any boat-rocking on these hallowed days.
R F Berger
"What exactly are they celebrating as they wave their flags in the grey, cold rain?" asks Steve Richards (5 June). As the Archbishop of Canterbury reminded us, 60 years ago the Queen made a statement of commitment to dedicate her life to her duties as sovereign. I was celebrating the keeping of that promise. Promises kept are worth a cheer; this one especially.
As someone who had come to believe that the days of royalty were now over and four days later finished up a royalist, I think there is no better example of the value of HM to this nation than her visit to Dublin in 2011, something unthinkable only a year or two back.
Who else could we have possibly sent? No politician would have been remotely acceptable. She carried it off with feeling and dignity, speaking for the conscience of the nation and desire for a new relationship.
West Kirby, Wirral
Now that the successful Jubilee celebrations draw to an end, is it not time to sort out the position of the Duchess of Cornwall? She is the only woman in the United Kingdom unable to call herself by the title to which her marriage should entitle her.
In the Duchy we have no problem, as Prince Charles is always referred to as the Duke of Cornwall. But elsewhere her status as wife to the heir to the throne is diminished by her inability to call herself Princess of Wales.
Even ardent republicans like myself know that the Queen's youngest son is called Edward, not Andrew ("Never mind the boats, the crowd came for the wave," 6 June). Despite The Independent's general no-royal-coverage policy you really ought to be aware of exactly who and what you normally choose to avoid writing about.
Over the past four days I've developed Repetitive Flag Waving Syndrome. Can anyone suggest a cure which does not involve austerity?
Soros is right to warn of danger to the euro
Your editorial criticising George Soros's warning to Germany (not to eurozone leaders) echoes the eye-watering complacency in Europe about the future of the currency (leading article, 5 June).
European leaders are facing electoral annihilation because of austerity. Their recent pact essentially makes Keynesian economics illegal. Austerity simply is not working, and Europe is in a deepening recession. The euro is increasingly revealed as a European vanity project.
Unless Germany (the euro is in reality its currency now) accepts its responsibility to sort this out and sort it out soon, as Soros advises, then the question will not be managing the exit of small Mediterranean countries, but managing the total disintegration of the euro.
Soros is right to flag this up clearly, and your editorial only compounds the complacency of the European leaders including ours.
Although some of Keynes's ideas might still be right and Paul Krugman (interview, 30 May) might have the right prescription for our economic problems, the world has moved on.
There are no more monetary controls, there is no Glass-Steagall Act, there is no bank regulation. The world is awash with tax havens. Both wealthy individuals and corporations have taken advantage of globalisation to evade tax by transferring funds offshore. The wealth gap has widened to unsustainable proportions as boardroom directors pillage corporate funds. Individual nations have no control or power any more while Europe has too many captains on the bridge arguing over how to steer the vessel.
Unless there is a co-ordinated effort by western governments to take over the reins of the financial and corporate sector to redistribute wealth on a massive scale and restore more justice and equality there can be no long-term solution and there will be a greater risk of social disorder.
Remember who pays the doctor
Dr D J Walker's letter ("Doctors deserve their pensions", 5 June) explains why doctors cannot understand the incredulity of their communities.
Dr Walker compares his remuneration enviously with that of a TV presenter or fat-cat banker, rather than any of the "real people" who comprise his paying public. He also complains that he has had to work hard for his reward. Well, Dr Walker, many of your patients work even harder than you for a fraction of your salary and a pension which requires them to continue working into old age.
At the age of 58 I am still working 10- to 14-hour days, often including a six-day week (for no extra salary), and neither of my last two employers, over 12 years, has seen fit to make any contribution to a pension scheme for me, nor any of my fellow employees.
During this time I have been finance director of a sizeable law firm and its highest paid employee, but could not dream of the remuneration of the average GP. This is the reality faced by many of your patients whom you seek to punish by offering emergency-only services because we are not paying you enough.
Pitfalls of work in prisons
For many years I taught in a prison education department and several years ago felt concerned about the use of cheap prison labour by companies. Prisoners worked for £6- £10 a week, which was more than they were paid to attend classes. Consequently we frequently "lost" those who needed education to the prison workshops. Prisoners often pointed out that they could not afford to phone their families and follow a course of study.
There are undoubted advantages, however, not least that establishing a routine of work – getting up, showered and breakfasted ready to be in the workplace by 8.30 – for many who had never held a legitimate job is valuable training in itself. Why not extend that experience (as I believe some private prisons do) by paying a more realistic wage, to be used in part to help support families and create savings accounts, so that men are released with a bit more than the standard prison grant?
However, there is inevitably a knock-on effect for local employment; on one occasion, I went into a workshop to ask a prisoner why he had stopped attending classes (not enough money), and he told me how his wife used to do the same job as he was currently doing, in a small factory near where she lived, in an ex-coal mining town, now quite deprived, but she and many others had been laid off.
The Justice Secretary is right to try to get prisoners out of their cells and into meaningful activity, but not at the expense of denying many the opportunity to benefit from education and training nor denying the local population paid employment. There is nothing new in using cheap prison labour but if the scale of it is to increase, it needs careful thought and planning.
'Illegal' staff at universities
As an external examiner at an English university, and employed by another English university, I have just received a demand to prove that I am entitled to work in the UK. To quote the University: "If we were found to be employing someone who does not have the right to work in this country, we could be subject to civil penalties of up to £10,000 per illegal worker."
This from a government department which is so ineffectual that they are incapable of repatriating hundreds of released prisoners, cannot get people through immigration checks without waiting three hours and lock up child asylum seekers in spite of it being illegal and inhumane.
If there are half a dozen people working in UK universities without the correct papers are they doing any harm? They are in all likelihood either educating our young people or in some way supporting their university experience.
Once again we have an example of a government department going for the soft target because it is unable to tackle the hard targets.
No miming for the Queen
After such a technically superb and live concert for the Queen's Jubilee, held outside Buckingham Palace, how is it that the musicians of the London Symphony Orchestra will have to mime during the opening ceremony for the Olympics? Is it even possible that musicians could mime convincingly in such circumstances?
Elizabeth J Oakley
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Capital and labour
In his letter from Marlow, Buckinghamshire, (4 June) Michael Gilbert insinuates that the motive for anyone wanting to start a new business is to provide jobs for other people.
The son of a businessman in nearby Southall, Middlesex, who had been a school pupil of mine, proudly told me: "My dad has created work for 20 people!"
"That's fine," I said, "but does he pay them all an equal share of the profit? If not, it would be more accurate to say that 20 people have created a nice little earner for your Dad."
The hunting of the scapegoat
With the Fox gone to ground, the Hunt is on for a scapegoat to expiate the sins of the Coalition. "Tally-ho!" I spy Baroness Warsi.
Alan Stennett's letter (6 May) makes the common assumption that Sayeeda Warsi attended a grammar school. She did not. She attended Birkdale High School, Dewsbury, which was a comprehensive school. Which serves to emphasise Mr Stennett's point.
Batley, West Yorkshire
While we should be grateful that the Mouse has roared ("Disney bans junk food ads for kids", 6 June), I can't help questioning the Government's silence on this front.
British Heart Foundation
One would think that Alan Carcas (letter, 5 June) is appealing to his party to commit hara-kiri by promoting Gove to replace Cameron. Hurrah! Labour is on its way back.
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