Letters: A new year, but the old order is back


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Astonished, I find myself in complete agreement with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, now that she has departed from her usual subject of the problems of Muslim women and turned her talented pen to the eternal subject of the British class system (Comment, 2 January). I will be 70 this year. What depresses me is how little the basic fabric of this UK has changed in my lifetime. The same people still own and run the country now as did in the 1940s, the gap between the classes is still as wide, there is still a great underclass of the desperate poor.

Yasmin is right. The old order is back in charge. There was some hope of change when we started to get prime ministers from the lower orders, that unbroken line of grammar-school products from Wilson to Major. But that soon changed, courtesy of public school "socialist" Anthony Crosland.

As a result of him closing the grammar-school escape route for the working class, the governance of Britain is now back in its traditional hands. Probably for ever; the British love their class system too much. A thousand years of servility and obedience cannot be wiped away in a couple of generations. In a world full of serious news – Syria, Iran, the eurozone – our state broadcaster led all its news bulletins with the New Year Honours list? As the BBC reported that this rich actor or that wealthy celebrity or that plutocratic banker had been given a medal or a medieval title, I couldn't help thinking that this is not unlike the way they manage public information in North Korea.

Chris Payne



I for one shall be taking David Cameron's good wishes for 2012 with a pinch of salt. Having been witness to the destruction of swathes of the public services under the auspices of a deficit reduction programme, and the lives that have been destroyed since, I will not be involving myself in the ritualistic joy of either the Olympics or the Jubilee.

I hardly consider these milestones to be a success when one considers the actual results of the past 18 months, a rise of unemployment to near 2.5 million and a further reinforcement of alienation from Europe based on a paranoid mindset. David Cameron's only saving grace is that he has not invaded another country without the backing of the UN.

Jon Kingsbury

Totton, Hampshire


Stay British in 2012

Although the presenters on British radio and television insist on saying "Twenty Twelve" for the year, everybody I hear is saying "Two thousand and twelve". Why do we feel uncomfortable with "Twenty Twelve"? In the UK, we count in hundreds up to 2,000, while our American "overlords" count up to 10,000 in hundreds. For example you'll hear Americans say "thirty-five hundred dollars". So listen to the people, BBC, and let's at least once stay British.

David A Harvey

Doncaster, South Yorkshire


Sober start

I feel the British Liver Trust's statement that "detoxing for just a month in January is medically futile" (report, 2 January) is typical these days of science's often narrow-minded view of life and its focus so often on purely negative statistics. I'm sure many of us regularly abstain from alcohol at this time not only for our bodies' sake but also to cleanse our minds and spirits to face and welcome another New Year.

Clive Loveless

London W10


Crazy prices

Your article on the price of property in Camden Hill Square (29 December) captures virtually everything about Britain that provokes acute revulsion. The piece left me sitting quietly examining my hands and wondering when we turned into such a vile place. An average of £4.9m for bricks and mortar in Notting Hill? Clearly we are lost.

John Aitken

Plymouth, Devon


Get back to work

On 2 January it was business as normal in France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Spain. But in the UK it seems we require two days to recover from New Year hangovers. If Mr Cameron wanted to tackle alcohol abuse, a very effective way would be to eliminate these supplementary Monday holidays: they really do no more than disrupt public services.

Trevor Pateman

Brighton, East Sussex


Nothing doing

With all respect to David Battye and Jo Sehmi (letters, 29 December), at least their tax payments were acknowledged. I received a Revised Penalty Determination in 2010 for £0.00. Despite sending a cheque by return for precisely that amount I have so far failed to receive the requested receipt. Bad form.

Paul Mellor

Rodmell, East Sussex


How UK treated victim's family

As if the dreadful shooting of Anuj Bidve were not disgrace enough to this country ("Family heard of Salford murder on Facebook", 31 December), we have added insult to injury, first, by the failure of the police to notify his family immediately and, worse still, by the refusal to provide prompt visas and allow this grief-stricken family to travel immediately to the UK.

Your newspaper has frequently highlighted the clumsy and heartless attitude of the UK Border Agency. If they are indeed responsible for what you term "visa delays", then they shame us all.

Jenny Bryer



The story about the family of the tragically killed Indian student Anuj Bidve reading about his death on Facebook has some worrying aspects.

There is no mention of what ID the young man had on him or whether anyone came forward to tell the police where his parents were. I fail to see why the police have to apologise and why at taxpayers' expense we are sending specialist police officers to India to provide support for his parents.

The police are not responsible for the terrible tragedy and they are not in control of Facebook.

Martin Sandaver

Hay-on-Wye, Hereford


Implant check to take two months

The "implant passport" is a good idea but how about some clear policy on women requesting information on their breast implants now (report, 2 January). After breast cancer eight years ago, I had an implant at Mount Vernon Hospital.

Although not alarmed I simply wanted to know whether it was a PIP implant and phoned my doctor. I was told by the receptionist that no one else had asked and I should ring the hospital.

I phoned Mount Vernon and was told to write to the Royal Free Hospital where the records were held, although it would take up to two months to reply. There must be a quicker method than this.

Name and address supplied


Forgiving debt is part of our aid

Your story makes the case for forgiving Sudan's debt with money that does not come from the development budget (" 'Made-up money' padding aid budget, critics claim", 30 December). Debt cancellation has always been part of Britain's official development assistance and related aid targets, and is totally consistent with the internationally recognised definition of aid monitored by the OECD.

By freeing countries such as Sudan of these outstanding arrears, we are making sure that their own resources are released from repayments into productive investment to support much-needed development in their own country.

If critics think it a practical proposition given Britain's generous and principled stance on international development to take this funding from another budget – perhaps education or state pensions – at such a difficult time for hard-pressed families in Britain, then they should have the courage to say so rather then issuing liverish press releases on a slow Christmas news day.

Stephen O'Brien MP

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development, London SW1


What the Dickens is really going on?

Poor old BBC. Forget baby polar bears and female pandas: read our savage review from Tim Lott (30 December) about their three-part version of Great Expectations and let's plaster a banner over the front page of The Independent telling everyone what "a load of old rubbish" it is.

I couldn't disagree more. While short on humour, this was an immensely stylish, invigorating production, largely faithful in spirit to the Dickens original, while taking justifiable liberties with characters and plot to fit the slot lengths.

And why shouldn't Miss Havisham be more attractive than Estella? Though this is an insult to Vanessa Kirby, who was radiant in the latter role. In no way can Drummle really be said to "befriend" Pip; and if Estella and Pip's tentative brushing of lips can be described as a "steamy kiss", then Mr Lott has had a sheltered upbringing.

Why is there no mention at all in his review of two magnificent performances, David Suchet's Jaggers, and Ray Winstone's Magwitch? They illuminated the screen. If this was "tedium and drift and multiplying perplexity", I can only reply, Bah, Humbug!

Gordon House



It was never the job of the BBC to follow Dickens' Great Expectations exactly (letter, 31 December). A television drama and a novel are different ways of telling a story – they are different in type, not quality – and programme-makers are allowed their own interpretation of tales from literature.

People need to stop nit-picking at the latest Great Expectations series. If you want something that's precisely like the book, you may as well reread the book.

Emilie Lamplough

Trowbridge, Wiltshire


Can anyone tell me when we get to see or read the remake of Dickens's A Christmas Carol in which Tiny Tim passes away, his brother Peter is arrested for firebombing a store and Scrooge is translated from villain to hero when his name is published in the New Year Honours list?

Richard M Thompson

Sutton, Surrey


Workers loathed Churchill

I have to take issue with Mark Taha's assertion that Churchill deserved a state funeral because he was a "national icon, admired by the overwhelming majority of the population" (letter, 31 December).

This notion was largely a construction of the Churchill industry, which began to get into gear during the shifting demographics of the post-1970s era and was also a part of the cultural marketing of the Second World War heritage industry of that period, which demanded a figurehead.

For most of the 20th century, Churchill was loathed by the working class for his actions during the General Strike of 1926, when he was said to want to use machine-guns on strikers.

His position as wartime prime minister was largely a case of when dealing with bastards (Nazis) we need a bastard of our own. But post-war British voters dropped him for a socialist Labour government.

Dr Gavin Lewis



The discussion about Mrs Thatcher's funeral should reflect Cameron's new Tory policies. Localism and the Big Society demand that Thatcher's neighbours (hard-working families) gather local volunteers (benefit scroungers), collect donations (philanthropic businesses), buy spades, wood and nails and get digging.

Jeremy Braund