Letters: Attack on right to strike signals new serfdom

These letters appear in the July 11 edition of The Independent

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Can we assume that if a future Tory government changes the law to allow a strike to take place only if 50 per cent of union members have voted for it, that they will also ensure that candidates at elections can only take their seats if 50 per cent of the electorate have voted? The Tory party gained just 36 per cent of the national vote at the last general election.

Our civil liberties have been eroded under David Cameron. His government has sought to stop our right to demonstrate, has undermined workers’ rights and is introducing a snoopers’ charter, where every single one of us is to be treated as a potential terrorist. Now they want to silence anyone who disagrees with their policies, by making it impossible to strike. This is borderline dictatorship.

The Tories have shown over the past four years how much they hate the working class. Aside from destroying the welfare state, how many people are aware that when David Cameron talks about reforming Europe, the “red tape” he wants to do away with includes workers’ rights, such as sick leave and maternity pay?

There is something particularly sickening about watching MPs denouncing public sector strikers because they are no longer prepared to accept a 1 per cent pay increase, when the very same MPs have just voted themselves an 11 per cent pay increase.

Julie Partridge

London SE15


To an unprecedented backdrop of sleazy cover-ups, the Cameron  gang again displays its  true colours with its  vow to outlaw strike action.

It’s all part of the New Serfdom, with its zero-hour contracts, food banks and unrestrained payday-lender usury. While, as you report, the honest taxpayer is made to underwrite more offshore handouts to spivs who buy their immunity by shovelling it back into Tory Party funds.

For God’s sake, Clegg, the time is now. Break with these unspeakable people, and champion the people who do Britain’s real daily work.

Richard Humble



Strikes are, sadly, often the only means by which employees can obtain better pay and conditions, or defend existing conditions; appeals to the good nature of employers invariably fall upon deaf ears.

Strong workers’ movements brought an end to Dickensian working conditions and helped to create a more equal society.

It is no surprise that in recent decades inequality has risen in step with repressive anti-union legislation.

Barry Richards



The sins of UK Export finance

Your revelations concerning UK Export Finance support for a firm based in a tax haven (“British taxpayers underwrote deals worth £140m by firm based in Cayman Islands”, 7 July) indicate that much more light should be shone on this rogue government department and its use of public funds.

Our inquiries following Freedom of Information requests and research at the National Archives have shown that past underwriting by UK Export Finance has led to military sales to Mubarak in Egypt, Hawk jets to Suharto in Indonesia, and destroyers to the Argentinian junta used to invade the Falklands – dictator debts which are still being paid off by their oppressed peoples.

Under this government, UKEF has also backed coal and oil exports despite the Coalition Agreement pledge to end fossil-fuel subsidies. Now tax avoidance can be added to the list of sins.

Vince Cable, the minister with decision-making power over the department for four years now, has failed to demonstrate his commitment to promoting responsible British business overseas by cleaning up UK Export Finance, despite it being Lib Dem policy. At Jubilee Debt Campaign, our supporters have even offered funds to take him to Norway to learn about that country’s much more progressive approach to export finance – but they have not even received a response to the invitation. Perhaps your letters page can help the minister rediscover his conscience?

Jonathan Stevenson

Jubilee Debt Campaign

London N1


Exposing paedophiles a poor career move

In 1981, shortly after Geoffrey Dickens MP had named Sir Peter Hayman as a paedophile in the House of Commons, a then colleague and I were interviewed through the Crown Agents for a job with the government of Brunei.

Swapping experiences afterwards, we found we had both been asked our views on Sir Peter’s “outing”.

I had replied that I agreed with it, and in response to a follow-up question that “Surely everyone is entitled to keep their private life private?” I had answered that some activities are so heinous that they merit exposure. I was then told that in Brunei such an action would not be possible.

My colleague, being much more interview savvy, had replied that while he disagreed with Sir Peter’s activities, he should not have been named. He got the job.

Tom Russell

South Rauceby, Lincolnshire


Usually Norman Tebbit would defend his party to the death over policy issues but his contribution on Andrew Marr’s show admitting there could have been a cover-up of paedophile crimes made me respect him in a way I would never have thought possible.

There are some situations so toxic, so wicked that mere party politics fade into obscurity. We need the truth, and Tebbit’s position will help that process.

Steven Calrow



Niqab is a badge of women’s oppression

Like Janette Davies (letter, 10 July), I also agree with Mary Dejevsky (4 July). Face-covering is not acceptable in our public places.

The issue of religious belief is too easily misused in the name of tolerance, since belief is not confined to religion but refers to many deeply held convictions which society might or might not condone. Take the man who believes passionately in nudity, and has spent a considerable time in prison for walking naked in public places, rather than confining himself to specially reserved venues for devotees of nudity. His belief isn’t a religion, but it is a conviction which society doesn’t share.

For me, wearing the niqab in a public place presents something beyond the challenge to social norms and security. It is the promulgation of a notion of female inferiority which runs counter to the very essence of our modern law and social organisation. It disturbs me to see women in our society supporting a mindset which underpins misery and suffering for millions of women worldwide.  

Paula Jones

London SW20


Winning football, but a bit too German

The German performance on Tuesday night was dazzling, but this is not  how our commentators describe it.

John Walsh (10 July) uses the terms “machine” and “robot”, adding the offensive metaphor of “mustard gas” to explain the German victory. The BBC commentators overused the word “clinical”, commending an “efficient” display. I suggest that, had the seven goals been scored by Brazil, we would be celebrating their genius, attacking verve, pyrotechnic display.

When will we rid ourselves of world war sub-texts to describe a 21st century sporting event?

Kathryn Ross

Cobham, Surrey


Paul Street (letter, 10 July) may be right when he suggests that what he calls niggling in the penalty area has been going on for ever. But is he also happy to use the rather more recent expressions “professional foul” and “winning a penalty”?

Max Double

Amesbury, Wiltshire


Lost files offer hope for freedom

In the face of the “snoopers’ charter”, I hope to be able to draw some comfort from the extensive capacity of government departments for losing documents.

Sooner or later, there will be so much data for them to trawl through that most of us will simply disappear in the flood, and carry on our anonymous, interference-free and enjoyable lives. No government will ever be able to employ enough people to monitor everyone.

John Evans

Pulborough, West Sussex


I presume the reason Foreign Office torture files were water-damaged was that they were being kept in the same room used for waterboarding detainees. Nothing surprises me now, given the depths to which our politicians have sunk.

Mike Joslin


A snake in the heather

Your news item “snake warning after adder bites dog’s face” (5 July) reports that dog owners have been warned “to look out for snakes when walking in woods and grassland areas”.

Those are two habitats where you are unlikely to encounter an adder. They are almost exclusively found on heaths and moorland, although occasionally on woodland rides.

Peter Brown