I totally agree with Henrietta Cubitt (“Not all grey voters will pick the Tories”, letter, 11 February).
I have a reasonably good pension from a final-salary based scheme, our mortgage is paid off, and we no longer have children to support. I am far more concerned about the economic situation facing our sons’ generation and the kind of society their children will be brought up in.
Welwyn Garden City
As a befuddled “grey voter”, my elderly eye was caught by the letter in The Independent on 11 February headed “Not all grey voters will pick the Tories”.
In my confusion, I thought that this had something to do with publicity for the recent film, Fifty Shades of Grey, which I understand is about a rich, over-indulged, power-crazed individual keen on exploiting and inflicting pain on the innocent and vulnerable. I wasn’t totally wrong.
T R Stockman
You report that “less than half of 18-year-olds are joining the electoral roll now that universities no longer block-register students in halls of residence,” implying that that is to be regretted (6 February).
University courses typically last three years, so a student will average a year and a half in the constituency after an election. Local residents, on the other hand, could be lumbered with the consequences of block student registration for half a decade.
It’s also difficult to see how the absence from the rolls of anyone too stupid or too indolent to register can be “damaging to our democracy”.
No sexism, please, and no golf either
I am not, and never have been, a member of the Transport Golfing Society (“The Tube boss, a golf society, and a night of ‘exciting tight dresses’ ”, 14 February). I have no relationship with it, and I don’t play golf.
I have been invited, as many industry people are, to the annual dinner by a bus manufacturer, Alexander Dennis. The highlight of the evening for me has been singing carols. There have been a couple of tedious speeches too. In my memory there has never been inappropriate entertainment of any sort and had there been I would not have stayed or accepted an invitation again.
It never occurred to me there was a policy of excluding women, and that hasn’t been referred to in the invitations I have received. Now it’s clear there appears to be such a policy I will on no account accept an invitation again. I abhor sexism in any form and to see it apparently practised in this way is particularly inappropriate in an industry in which women are under-represented and in which we are promoting careers, and equality, for women.
I have made a personal donation to the Fawcett Society and am writing to Alexander Dennis to make my views very clear and to invite them to dissociate from sexism in an industry that should be encouraging women to join it.
Sir Peter Hendy
Commissioner of Transport for London, London SW1
A Russian speaker who backs Ukraine
Chris Sexton (Letters, 11 February) says that the division between Ukraine and Russia is where, in the east, “people start speaking Russian, and thinking of themselves as Russian”. If only it were so simple.
I have a young work colleague who is a Russian speaker, yet she thinks of herself as staunchly Ukrainian and is strongly pro-Kiev. She is opposed to Putin’s expansionism and says many of her contemporaries at home feel the same. Yet her family live in the far east of what is still, tentatively, Ukraine. What happens to her and her like?
I am enjoying Andrew Dewson’s informative US Outlook column. A gem this week (14 February) was his assertion that certain “investors” might better be referred to as “chancers”. A campaign is overdue to rename the pernicious “Investor-State Relations” aspects of the impending EU-North America Trade deal as “Chancer-State Relations”.
Professor Emeritus, Portsmouth Business School
The City looks like a conspiracy against the people
Your twin articles (11 February) on Tory fundraising and Labour mending fences with business admirably demonstrate the problem facing any potential reforming government.
While the Tories can blatantly seek massive donations from the City, with its vested interests, we are expected to believe that any future Tory government will have our interests at heart.
This situation has come about, in part, because successive governments, stretching back to Thatcher and including the era of Tony Blair, have allowed capitalism to run unchecked, permitted reward for failure to become the norm, and failed to remove tax-avoidance loopholes.
The question of obtaining tax from the wealthy is greeted with raised hands from the Tories, who recite the mantra of “wealth creators” first posited by Thatcher. It was a nonsense then and it still is today.
Labour can win this election if they stick to policies of fairness and adopt their own vocabulary, which would avoid “soaking the rich”, but would state their intention to set a tax system which is “commensurate with people’s ability to pay”.
It might also be useful to correct some of the statements issued by the Tories. Your article finished with Cameron’s assertion that “business is not a conspiracy of runaway profits, depressed wages, inequality and unfairness”. At times like this, Labour would be well served to turn the spotlight on the economic wasteland which is the last five years and say: “Actually, Dave, that’s exactly what it is”.
The news that HSBC had been facilitating tax evasion comes as no surprise. The bank regulatory agencies, loaded with former bank executives, facilitate the criminal activities of the banks rather than stopping or preventing them.
The global financial aristocracy can plunder with impunity, knowing it will be protected by a thoroughly bribed political system that it dominates. The day-to-day functioning of the capitalist financial system has assumed the form of a criminal conspiracy against the people.
This is not a system that can be reformed. Its rampant criminality is not the result of “bad apples.” Illegality and corruption are intrinsic to the system. The multimillionaire financiers, rather than being fêted as economic titans, deserve to be frog-marched to prison.
If capitalists can legally avoid taxes, some of them, perhaps under pressure from other members of society, may, nevertheless, feel a moral obligation to pay, whereas others, being insensitive to moral exhortations, may not. The latter will then be able to sell their goods at a lower price, driving the former out of business.
Hence, in the long run, only “immoral” capitalists will prosper. And in so far as such people exercise power more generally in society, there is no reason to suppose that any of their actions will be motivated by moral principles.
How can this be prevented? The answer is to make it clear to all capitalists that, with respect to the payment of taxes, they have no obligation (moral or otherwise) other than to obey the law.
Thus the advantage that the immoral capitalist would have would no longer obtain, and the class of capitalists would include some who are sensitive to moral issues, and would be likely to use their power unselfishly for the benefit of others.
The payment of taxes should be regulated solely by law.
The name-calling and pointy-finger recriminations surrounding HSBC’s complicity in its clients’ tax evasion and/or aggressive tax avoidance schemes seem to me to be conveniently narrow.
All financial institutions of substance have, or had, wealth management subsidiaries in Switzerland in which they invested millions. Competition for the funds of the affluent was such that due diligence about the source of those funds and the ethics of the investment objectives became subordinate to the need to justify their investment.
The draconian Swiss banking secrecy laws were never seriously challenged for as long as it was convenient to turn a blind eye.
Information-sharing agreements between the relevant authorities and the odd brave whistleblower have simply since demonstrated what was known, or could reasonably have been inferred, by successive administrations, be they Labour or Conservative, or indeed, anybody with a modicum of common sense.
So, please spare us the righteous indignation.
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