On the same day that banks are fined, again, for rigging the markets, Chris Blackhurst (21 May) warns us that if we are beastly to bankers the good ones will all go away, leaving us with a bunch of duds.
This may be right but I’m not clear about what constitutes a good banker.
Presumably, it’s not those who brought our economy to its knees through a combination of greed, recklessness and incompetence.
Presumably it’s also not those responsible for rigging the markets who, for reasons I don’t understand, are fined rather than being locked up. I’m not sure who this leaves.
Presumably those who are slowly turning the banking sector round. But then in what way are these people remarkable? Are they not just doing their jobs in a sensible and responsible way, backed by the deep pockets of the taxpayer?
Chris Blackhurst is quite clear about how valuable bankers are and how important it is not to upset them. Perhaps if he reframed his argument in terms of what good bankers do that makes them indispensable, and what should be done about bad bankers, it would be more convincing.
When party leaders survived defeat
The difficult situation that the Labour Party now finds itself in regarding the shortcomings of leadership candidates is largely a product of the increasingly presidential system of politics being imported to this country.
It now seems accepted practice that when a party is defeated the leader steps down, but it was not ever thus.
During the 1960s and 70s Harold Wilson won two elections over Edward Heath’s Tories before the latter came back to win in 1970. Labour did not then drop Wilson, instead enabling him to lead them to victory again in 1974.
Now, it seems that the presidential system that focuses almost exclusively on the leader of the party for the whole of the election campaign has become the norm. Defeat means rejection and resignation.
If the system were not so presidential but as it used to be, Ed Miliband could still be leader. Given the present dilemmas, this would surely be preferable.
Gay cake ruling is an attack on freedom
In the light of the recent Northern Irish legal ruling that a Christian bakery is to be penalised for refusing a commission to bake a cake celebrating gay marriage, ask yourself which of the following you would also be in favour of:
1) A gay bakery being penalised in law for refusing to ice Old Testament or Qur’an verses against homosexuality on to a cake intended for a conservative Christian, Jewish or Muslim event.
2) A Jewish bakery being penalised in law for refusing to ice anti-Semitic imprecations on to a cake for a neo-Nazi, radical traditionalist Catholic or Islamist event.
3) A Palestinian bakery being penalised in law for refusing to ice a celebration of the anniversary of the state of Israel on to a cake for a Zionist organisation.
Noam Chomsky noted that “if we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all” – but this applies no less to freedoms of belief and conscience.
The gay couple in question were always free to express their beliefs: they could have sought out a baker sympathetic to their views to ice their cake, or iced it themselves. Instead, they used the law to force a person to express views he finds abhorrent.
This issue has nothing to do with “equality” and everything to do with freedom of belief, conscience and expression – it being an implacable attack on these latter. It sets a dreadful precedent.
Dr Robert Lockie
Hove, East Sussex
When it comes to the Church and marriage it shouldn’t be forgotten that for the first 1,000 years it had nothing much to say about marriage, nor a ceremony to celebrate it, while some Christian groups explicitly forbade it.
At the best marriage was seen as a concession to human weakness and the instrumental necessity of reproduction. From a moral point of view women were regarded much as gay men today, as agents of depravity: carnality would always be trumped by celibacy.
For the Church now to pretend to be the guardian of some higher moral view or natural order is totally duplicitous. Rather, its antagonism to gay marriage reveals the malign mentality still viscerally embedded in its thinking.
Fragile British ‘Bill of Rights’
Repeal of the Human Rights Act alone would not change the UK’s obligations as long as we remain party to the European Convention on Human Rights. In any case, all EU members undertake to abide by the ECHR. Only withdrawal from the ECHR and disengagement from the EU would remove such obligations.
Faced with a Conservative majority, and a buoyant Ukip, the odds of a referendum result in favour of EU withdrawal have never looked better. Perhaps the end game of HRA repeal is the extrication of the UK from all European human rights obligations?
This raises the possibility that UK residents could have their rights diluted or removed at the whim of government. Surely human rights and fundamental freedoms are too important to be swept away by a bare Parliamentary majority? The vulnerability of our rights is a direct consequence of the fact that we have no written constitution, unlike nearly every other democracy in the world.
Typically written constitutions emerge in the aftermath of a “constitutional moment”: a traumatic event opening the way for new constitutional settlements.
But the UK’s near-unique situation as a mature democracy with no written constitution means our most fundamental rights are susceptible to government incursion.
Faced with profound questions of national identity within the UK and regarding our relationship with the EU, it is time to better protect our human rights: we need a written constitution.
Nathan John Cooper
Senior Lecturer in Law
University of Lincoln
Can the Government tell us what rights will be included in their British Bill of Rights that are already in the Human Rights Act, and which, that are not in that Act, would be introduced by a superhuman British version?
Let’s be truthful about hunting
Like Mike McHugh (letter, 21 May), I am the witness of vulpine depredation, having lost my burnished bantam cockerel and several fine Light Sussex hens from a daytime raid by, I suspect, Mrs Fox in search of an easy supper for her offspring.
Seeing my old cat bring back a baby rabbit each morning makes me wonder why the vixen too couldn’t cultivate a rabbit habit. Happily the bantam fathered a brood of seven before he was taken, which is some consolation.
But my real concern is rather more serious in that it involves my grand-daughters. They have just become reasonably confident riders on their small ponies and it would be good if soon they could go hunting , as do many of their friends in the local Pony Club.
I know that if they did, they would learn patience, courage, horsemanship and a knowledge of farming and the countryside. But I am at a loss as how to explain to them the present situation as described by the Master as “hunting within the law”.
As granddaughters of a farmer they know exactly why foxes need to be killed occasionally, being also conversant with the lot of piglets and calves.
If only these irrational prejudices against those who hunt could be sorted once and for all, life could return to a simpler, more truthful path.
The peer and the ‘polytechnic’
In your article on the protest by Viscount Monckton at his name being included in an artwork produced by a third year BA student at Anglia Ruskin University (21 May) you quote him as describing Anglia Ruskin as “a jumped-up polytechnic”.
This is an interesting description from someone whose hereditary peerage goes as far back as 1957, when his grandfather was ennobled for his political work for the Conservative government!
If hedgehogs are disappearing in their home country (Simon Kelner, 20 May), there is a solution.
Here in New Zealand we have an increasing, immigrant population of over 4 million genuine British hedgehogs that are eating our endangered native fauna. So please, come and take them back.
Hikurangi, New Zealand