Letters: At last, Miliband looks able to take on Cameron

 

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Ed Miliband's conference speech struck me as inspirational. No notes, just the man. And for the first time, it seems, since he was an impassioned Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and fought fiercely for his beliefs at Copenhagen in 2009, we saw the fire in his belly. At last!

Maybe Mr Cameron has a fight on his hands after all.

Ian Bartlett

East Molesey, Surrey

No single party can give us One Nation government. Parties are ideological by definition: our most fundamental problems are not.

The country needs most what it wants least: a more balanced coalition. Only the necessity to accommodate Liberal views in government has mitigated Tory ideological instincts. The Liberals need to be stronger to achieve a better balance – but we won't vote for them. We prefer the delusion that we can solve our problems by replacing an ideologically right-wing government with an ideologically left-wing government.

Only a well-balanced coalition denies the electorate the easy option of voting against the sitting government: and denies party politicians the power to implement divisive policies.

Keith Farman

St Albans, Hertfordshire

Ed Miliband, by speaking without notes, said: "Look at me; I'm speaking from my heart." Next time Mr Miliband speaks using notes, we can assume that he is speaking from somewhere else.

Patrick Tansey

Worcester

The Labour conference speech by Ed Balls, declaring that George Osborne is responsible for the recession, won't convince anyone who has read a newspaper in the past two years. The talk of "tough choices", translated into English, means: we will do exactly what the Tories are doing but we'll do it better and fairer, honest.

Before I retired from local government in 2010, like all other budget holders I had already received instructions from senior management in 2009 to "think the unthinkable" when proposing revenue plans for the following three years. This was before Gordon Brown lost the election and while working for a Labour-controlled council.

By "think the unthinkable" they meant that if you can find substantial cuts to your budget, however radical the impact on the service, however many jobs are cut, but still provide the service, detail those proposals in your business plan. As I recall, we had to submit proposals for up to 20 per cent cuts.

Any notion that Labour will do things very differently is deeply flawed. They could of course, as, er, socialists, make sure that the billions lost in corporation and personal taxation of the very rich is clawed back, but they won't.

Adrian J P Morgan

Darwen, Lancashire

Shakespeare would not approve of BP

Those who complained that their enjoyment of a Shakespeare production at the RSC was disrupted by anti-BP activists should think again (report, 3 October). They might like to consider that the Bard would, were he alive today, have penned a highly enlightening play on corporate greed. Britain's arts institutions promote the ideals of well-being, excellence, progress and sustainability. But they fail to see that these are seriously undermined by BP's sponsorship.

The company is using its sponsorship to soften the reputational damage it suffered in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. And, by and large, it has worked. As art, heritage and sport, and indeed the world, learned to flourish without support from slavery, tobacco and alcohol, arts panjandrums should distance themselves from the peddlers of fossil fuel and cleanse the oil stain from art.

Nick Reeves

Executive Director

Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

London WC1

Open up private schools to all

The proposal to allow bright children from poor backgrounds to attend private schools uses misleading language (report, 3 October). It does not involve "open access" because it is based on selection, and rather than being "radical" it appears to be a version of the old grammar school system.

The proposal is well intentioned but misguided. It focuses on academically gifted children, disregarding children who may be talented in other ways, and would write off the vast majority of children, who would be considered unworthy for the scheme. That is not social mobility. We should be trying to find a way of allowing every child in the country access to a private education.

A truly radical idea would be to allow poorer families to spend an educational allowance on private education, which could then be topped up with bursaries or scholarships. This would allow the private sector to grow and in time we would have a system that truly provides parental choice, while also getting the best out of every child.

David Hanson

Chief Executive, Independent Association of Prep Schools

Leamington, Warwickshire

Shouting 'Fire!' in a mosque?

Your correspondent Michael McCarthy (letter, 26 September), commenting on Muslim anger over insults to Mohamed, refers to the "universally condemned liberty" to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theatre.

The original reference comes from Schenck vs United States (1919), when Oliver Wendell Holmes asserted that the right to free speech "would not protect a man in falsely shouting 'Fire!' in a theatre and causing a panic."

However, what Holmes equated to falsely shouting fire was in fact Charles Schenck distributing anti-draft material during the First World War. I suspect that few Independent readers would agree with Holmes's opinion in that specific case.

In any case, Schenck vs United States has effectively been superseded by Brandenburg vs Ohio (1969), which set the free speech bar higher. To be illegal, it must directly incite specific criminal action. (Brandenburg was a Ku Klux Klan leader whose conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court under the First Amendment. We find ourselves with unfortunate bedfellows in the defence of free speech.)

My view is that the right to publish offensive material should be fully protected and defended. However, using that right gratuitously to offend should be discouraged. Making and distributing deliberately provocative material seemingly only for the purposes of generating a (preferably violent) response is both juvenile and unhelpful. It would be nice to think that political dialogue could be conducted on a slightly higher plane.

John Morgan

London N4

European arrest warrant works

As the case of teacher Jeremy Forrest moves from the French to the English courts perhaps now is the time to recognise the EU arrest warrant (EAW). Extradition has been secured in hours.

The EAW has to be one of the most successful examples of co-operation there is. It is inconceivable to me that anyone, including members of my own party, wants to end this.

In its first four years the EAW secured the extradition of almost 12,000 suspects.

David Cameron is coming under increasing pressure to walk away from this co-operation and has until 2014 to decide. I hope he doesn't.

Sajjad Karim MEP

Conservative Spokesman for Legal Affairs. European Parliament, Brussels

A hundred years of country dance

We were fascinated to read that the borough of Bexhill, which Liam O'Brien describes (2 October) as "a town of Zimmer frames and walking sticks, of stamp societies and country dances", has the highest concentration of centenarians in the country.

As anyone who knows anything about country dancing is well aware, this activity is excellent exercise. It requires quickness of reaction and all sorts of skills, both mental and physical, as well as providing social interaction and stimulation. In addition, the way the dance movements complement the wonderful music engenders feelings of wellbeing and satisfaction.

So it's not surprising that some of its devotees live into their eleventh decade.

Adrian West

Gillian West

London N21

Complexities in the Middle East

Contrary to the assumption of C Cameron, (letter 3 October), Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, not of the Jewish religion. It was established following the UN partition decision of 1947.

Of course criticism of Israel or Zionism is not anti-Semitic. But critics of Israel, Jewish or not, who oppose the right of Israel to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people, while not opposing the existence of any other nation-state, exhibit a clear racist attitude and can be rightfully called anti-Semitic.

Dr Jacob Amir

Jerusalem

Ian Linden, Director of Policy for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, tells us (letter, 2 October) that Blair is well aware of the "complex political dynamics of the current situation in the Middle East", despite suggestions to the contrary. Doubters are urged to look at Blair's record as a peace broker.

Can we take it that this is not the Tony Blair who contributed to the complex political dynamics of the region by invading Iraq, but someone else of the same name?

Michael Swan

Didcot, Oxfordshire

Canada's victory

Regarding recent articles and letters concerning Canada, let us not forget that this year is the 200th anniversary of a four-pronged attack by the USA to annex Canada. This was done while most UK forces were occupied fighting Napoleon. The US forces were defeated by the small UK force stationed there, but only because of the essential co-operation of the Canadian Native Indians.

Eric Evans

Dorchester, Dorset

Concrete desert

Thank you for printing the Flooding map (29 September). Could you next please print a drought and hosepipe ban map? Then please parcel them up and send them off to the rocket scientists who think that the best plan for the south of the country is more concrete, and attendant water usage, wastage and run-off.

Alan Hallsworth

Waterlooville, Hampshire

Force of history

On the very day Eric Hobsbawm died pictures of a gathering at Karl Marx's grave were being broadcast on the BBC. That old fellow in the sky with the beard gets it right sometimes.

Ivor Morgan

Lincoln

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