As a long-term Conservative voter who voted Ukip for the first time on Thursday, I despair at the reaction to the local election results by both the Tory and Ukip parties.
The Conservative party chairman seems to think that what they must do to get voters like me back is to “redouble” their efforts to get the economy, jobs, and the welfare system on track. Nigel Farage believes that the reasons so many people have voted for his party is their stand on Europe and immigration.
The Tories will undoubtedly try harder to get the economy right and will in all probability announce plans for a referendum during this parliament on the Europe issue, but this alone will not win back my vote – nor many others.
Ukip is the only party that stands firm against the madness of changing the status of marriage by introducing same-sex “marriages”, and that opposes carbon taxes and wind farms. Yes, Ukip’s position on Europe and immigration are central to their support, but for many it is these other issues that tip the balance.
That Ukip is a one-trick pony is beyond doubt, but one thing is clear: British politics are getting more German. With the Lib Dems rejected and Labour flagging under Ed Miliband, the middle-ground spoils will be up for grabs in May 2015. The most likely outcome at the next general election is a German-style grand coalition led by a Conservative Prime Minister.
The Germans have kept recession at bay with a conservative parson’s daughter at the helm. The Conservatives have a potential Angela Merkel in Theresa May. Like the Germans, Mrs May is ruthlessly hard-working, can be eye-wateringly blunt and only shares the odd joke in private.
At the next general election, the fight will be less for a majority than a place at a cabinet table more colourful than a rainbow. Having handbagged the Home Office back into shape, Mrs May could be the Prime Minister to hold all these multi-coloured strands together. The new Iron Lady is on the march; Nigel Farage beware.
The success of Ukip in the English council elections has signalled that the party is now a real political force south of the border.
The leaders of other parties will be considering how to respond. An “in-out” EU referendum is now likely this parliamentary term, moving the UK closer to the exits. It will also see the current UK Government develop harder positions on immigration and law and order.
As we in Scotland contemplate a referendum on our nation’s constitutional future the choice for voters is clear. We can either continue to be part of a UK which will inevitably lurch to the right and withdraw from the EU, or be an independent nation which wants to play its full part in the world.
Maybe you are listening now?
John J Cameron
Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire
Stuart Hall case vindicates right to know
The Independent’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has played a pivotal role in triggering the police investigation that exposed the sordid secret world of Stuart Hall.
The heart-rending letter she received from a victim of Hall’s “historic” abuse echoed young victims of Jimmy Savile: a sense of shame and a fear that the fame and power of their abuser would stop any complaint being believed.
It was the same (all too often, well-founded) fear that prevented me as a newspaper editor from exposing Savile back in 1994, when two historic victims lost their nerve.
It’s far from unreasonable to conclude that, if it wasn’t for the positive legacy of Savile’s posthumous exposure, none of Stuart Hall’s victims would have found the courage to talk to police. They were luckier, too, in that Lancashire police, unlike some forces in the past, took the allegations seriously.
It’s highly significant, too, that Lancashire police defended disclosing Stuart Hall’s arrest from the start – an eloquent rebuff to those seizing on the Leveson Report to lobby for anonymity for arrested suspects as part of dangerous drift to a more secretive justice system.
For all the Press’s faults, it remains the great protector of the public’s right to know. That is why it’s disappointing that The Independent and its owners haven’t rallied behind the newspaper industry’s alternative Royal Charter proposal.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
Volunteering spirit in London
Mary Dejevsky can rest assured that far from allowing the Olympic volunteering spirit to perish, we are harnessing the fantastic goodwill of last summer’s Games and making volunteering a way of life in London. (“The volunteering spirit of London may perish without a new big idea”, 2 May)
Our army of Team London Ambassadors will continue to bring a smile to people’s faces at central London locations throughout this summer, as well as providing crucial help at major sporting events including the Euroleague Basketball and the Champions Trophy.
Our Ambassadors are also being matched to schools across London to inspire young people to volunteer in their local communities. Research has shown that engaging pupils in volunteering increases their confidence and attainment and improves community cohesion. In addition, we’re targeting more unemployed young people as volunteer recruits and giving them skills training and opportunities at major sporting and cultural events, including the Uefa Champions League Final.
One year on from the Games, in July, we and national charity Join In are hosting an event in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for all the 2012 volunteers to inspire them to continue volunteering and encourage their friends and family to do the same. From the end of May, we will be reaching out to all Londoners to sign up to new Team London opportunities and do something great for our city and local communities.
Volunteering has been rising in London since 2011 and our recent Team London survey showed that 68 per cent of Londoners have been involved in some form of volunteering over the last 12 months. We are determined to build on the volunteering legacy of the Games and to drive thousands of rewarding opportunities across London’s communities.
Senior Adviser to the Mayor of London (Team London and Volunteering), City Hall, London SE1
Taking the train from Dorking
Beware statistics! I can well believe the low number of passengers at Denton and Teesside Airport given the paucity of their train service (“Britain’s ghost trains”, 2 May). But I occasionally use Dorking West, and it is not a ghost station. There are generally a few others on my train. But I won’t be counted in the figures because my ticket will be to “Dorking Stations”, equally valid at Dorking Deepdene, the next stop, served by far more trains.
I doubt if Dorking West has a ticket machine, so passengers would either pay on the train, or would buy their ticket in advance from the staffed Dorking North station on a different line (very close to Deepdene).
H Trevor Jones
Too posh to do the housework
Rosie Millard (2 May) reports her interviewees, who can no longer afford cleaners, as complaining that “it seemed to be the middle class that are suffering most” in the recession, with one saying: “I didn’t go to university for four years in order to do this [cleaning her house].”
As somebody with an “arty, creative, inessential” job who is just about to do the vacuuming, I’m glad that I saw my time at polytechnic 25 years ago as an opportunity to learn about something that I was interested in, rather than as a means of “having it all” and claiming the right to employ somebody to clean up after me in my own home.
Let MPs vote on cigarette packs
The Government will have dropped the ball if it doesn’t find room for standardised cigarette packaging in the Queen’s Speech.
If it’s not part of next week’s speech, MPs must be allowed the opportunity of a free vote on standardised packaging – in the same way they voted to ban smoking in pubs and clubs in 2006. Standardised packs are popular and inexpensive and will help to stop young people getting hooked on a lethal habit. We cannot afford any further delays.
Chief Executive, British Heart Foundation, London NW1
We need bees
The National Farmers’ Union predicts the temporary restriction on some neonicotinoid pesticides will cost UK farming £200m a year. But the cost of replacing pollination by bees is estimated as nearly 10 times that. In April an MPs’ inquiry reported that neonicotinoids are not fundamental to farming. But pollination by bees always will be. Government must help farmers face the challenges of today to avoid the catastrophes of tomorrow. We need a Bee Action Plan now.
Executive Director, Friends of the Earth, London N1
Anne Penketh (1 May) rehearses a standard British journalistic theme: that the French are somehow strange, or even to be laughed at, for their eccentric wish to speak ... French! At least the French take pride in their language, while we seem complacently to allow British English to collapse more and more rapidly beneath American English.
A C Bolger
You report (3 May) that Mark Bridger, the man accused of murdering April Jones, had cans of Strongbow cider “which the jury heard Bridger bought with benefits on the day April went missing”. What is the relevance of the fact that the cider was bought with benefits?
Faith Davis (letter, 2 May) tells of her 120 fritillaries. I planted six fritillaries here in my garden in central London four years ago. This year I have had 29, two of which have hopped flower beds.