Letters: A ‘scrounger’ driven to despair

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, 24th April, 2013

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Last night, on Facebook, I watched the messages as someone attempted suicide online as a result of this government’s demonisation of the disabled and withdrawal of the meagre benefits they need to survive. He had given up the struggle.

Fortunately, the rest of the group rallied round and were able to intervene. This morning I have learned that he’s in hospital, but not out of danger. If not for the compassion and concern of strangers, he would be dead by now.

While the world recoils at the horror of the Boston bombings, a much greater horror is taking place in the UK as thousands of genuinely disabled people die, quietly and unnoticed, one at a time in their own homes or in hospitals. Their conditions worsen under the stress of fighting for the benefits they were guaranteed but are now denied and their illness overcomes them. Many have committed suicide.

What kind of society have we become, where we turn our collective backs on those most in need of help? Where we believe the fable that those on benefits are all worthless scroungers? It’s not just the Government – it’s also this society that supports the Government’s misinformation and turns on the helpless, believing that compassion applies only to their own family and friends.

Wake up, Britain. We are exterminating the disabled, not through gas chambers and execution squads, but through despair and desperation. Each life is snuffed out in quiet corners across the country, unknown and unregarded, but each is an individual with friends and family, just like you.

Tony Johnson, Scarborough, North Yorkshire


Rules could damage NHS health care

Today (24 April) the House of Lords will debate controversial rules that detail how aspects of patient choice and competition will operate under the Health and Social Care Act in England. It is our strong belief that these regulations need to be urgently withdrawn and replaced with a much clearer set of regulations.

The ambiguous nature of the section 75 regulations has caused widespread uncertainty across the NHS and among patients. In their current form, the rules do not reflect government assurances that healthcare commissioners will not be forced to open tenders for health service contracts to competition.

Mandatory competition risks fragmenting services and damaging the delivery of high-quality, integrated health care to patients. These regulations could also leave commissioners in the position of facing costly, unnecessary tendering processes and possible legal challenges from unsuccessful bidders.

These regulations need to be withdrawn and replaced with clear wording that makes it clear commissioners have the freedom to act in the best interests of their patients.

Dr Mark Porter , Chair of Council, British Medical Association,  London WC1


David Cameron claims that his NHS reforms were about giving more control to local doctors and communities. That will be a surprise to GPs who under Section 75 are being forced to open up every part of local health services to private companies, whether or not its what they, the patient, or the local community want.

Section 75 shows that ministers are breaking the promises made in both Houses of Parliament last year, that doctors wouldn’t be forced to privatise everything.

This isn’t just back-door privatisation of the NHS, this is full-on. David Cameron treats the intelligence of the electorate with utter contempt. Margaret Thatcher wouldn’t have muttered about local doctors and communities; she at least had the balls to call a spade a spade.

Julie Partridge, London SE15


Why bankers dumped shares

Ben Chu’s article (19 April) about the share options granted by Barclays highlights the fact that the recipients (including Rich Ricci) all “dumped” their shares immediately on receipt.

This is hardly surprising, since income tax is liable based on the price of the shares at the time of vesting as opposed to when they are sold later. Thus, if the executives retain their allotment of shares and the share price subsequently drops, the lucky recipients will be paying tax on a loss.

Ben Chu did not point this out, even though it is a serious flaw in the tax system and encourages every recipient of share options to sell them immediately on vesting, unless they are prepared to take a potentially very expensive gamble. I’m sure prudent bankers would not do that.

David Bracey, Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire


New danger of police corruption

The story about the police and crime commissioner and his failure to check an exorbitant expense (“PCC in limo expenses row  ‘sorry’ ” and leading article, 20 April ) rang a doomey bell for me.

When the elections for PCCs took place, I went to my allotted polling station and despite (or perhaps because of ) the fact that I am a former Metropolitan Police superintendent, have worked in an American police department as a staff psychologist and for a number of years taught criminal justice studies at a UK university, I am proud to say I deliberately spoiled my ballot paper by writing across it in large letters, “THIS IS A RECIPE FOR CORRUPTION”. 

I was aware that normal practice is that spoiled papers are shown to candidates or their agents. It was  my small protest, but this action (and prognostication) is, it seems, already proving valid.

The importation of American ideas into the British criminal justice system is rarely a good idea. The slippery slope from small immoral acts to what criminal justice studies calls “heavy end corruption” is well known.

Ian K McKenzie, Exmouth, Devon


Terror, but not mass destruction

While it was a horrific crime and one can only feel deep sadness for those who suffered death and injury during the Boston Marathon bombing, the US risks making itself look ridiculous by charging the surviving suspect with using “weapons of mass destruction”.

The bomb, a pressure-cooker filled with nails and ball-bearings, did inflict horrible injury. It was a weapon of terror but not of mass destruction. As a westerner, I have no axe to grind against the USA, but my first thought was that the US should first look in its own back yard for weapons of mass destruction, drones and depleted uranium ammunition being two which immediately jump to mind.

With this charge against the bomber there will be many thousands of Muslims who will have drawn the same conclusion and who will now be pondering the rank hypocrisy of the USA. That cannot be good for security.

Alan Mitcham, Cologne, Germany


Is it not a bit ridiculous for Boston doctors to engage, so conscientiously, in efforts to save the life of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that he may be fit enough to climb the scaffold?

Godfrey H Holmes, Chesterfield, Derbyshire


I don’t care what the armed cops of Boston wear; let them look like Star Wars cops (letter, 22 April).

They may have locked down the city, but they kept their citizens safe and captured the mindless idiot who maimed 170 people and killed three. My English daughter and two grandsons live in Boston. They were kept safe.

Well done, I say, to the Star Wars cops. The state has to be heavy-handed when  killers are on the loose.

Linda Dickins, Wimborne, Dorset    


Swipe from the sofa

Matt Butler’s “View from the Sofa” (22 April), with its cheap dig at myself and the “gaggle of BBC news staff” who were running in the London Marathon, and its strange suggestion of “nepotism”, seemed out of kilter with Sunday’s amazing event.

If he had listened carefully, he would have heard me say that all injury niggles and training worries were, obviously, put aside. Like tens of thousands of participants, we were all running for someone – I’ve raised £10,000 for Macmillan, who looked after my Mum – and we were all running with Boston in mind too.

It’s easy to have a swipe from the sofa; far harder to train for months to run 26.2 miles, to help others.

Sian Williams, London N8


Hand of God and teeth of Suarez

An otherwise excellent full page devoted to the fallout from Suarez’s latest indiscretion (22 April) was let down by the first entry in the “Suarez’s shame” list.

While biting and racism have no place in football, the offence of “handball” has always been a punishable event of many, if not most, matches. Suarez was not the first and won’t be the last to prevent a goal this way on the line. It’s not exactly in keeping with the Corinthian spirit, but I know most of my fellow England supporters would have cheered had Gary Lineker done the same.

Mark Ryde, Poringland Norfolk


Dogs that bite people should always be destroyed. Luis Suarez should never be allowed to play football again. He’s a breed Britain can well do without.

We have more than enough dangerous people on our streets; we don’t need them in sport, especially one played by half the nation’s youngsters.

Allan Ramsay, Manchester


I suggest that the Professional Footballers’ Association is unwise to urge that the supremely gifted Luis Suarez go on an anger management course. I fear that he will drink the blood of any tutor.

Dai Woosnam, Grimsby


MPs trying to bully Google

Exactly what is the problem Margaret Hodge and the Public Accounts Committee are complaining about? Google complies with the law on taxation in all respects and has no obligation, moral or otherwise, to pay additional corporation tax.

The PAC seem to believe that it is preferable to try to intimidate companies and individuals into paying donations to the Government rather than to address the real issues around tax evasion and avoidance.

Peter Coghlan, Broadstone, Dorset


Leveson lawyers

James Cusick (23 April) is right to question the Daily Mail accusation that an affair between two Leveson barristers should cause doubts about the inquiry’s integrity. Couldn’t this equally be seen as parts of the press, once again, getting up to their old tricks and abusing what powers they have for their own purposes?

Bob Morgan, Thatcham, West Berkshire