Letters: Bob Crow and ‘holding the country to ransom’

These letters appear in the Thursday March 13th edition of the Independent


Bob Crow was an intelligent, principled and highly effective union leader who believed that all workers should be paid a fair wage and pension for their labours, and be accorded safe and comfortable working conditions. He also believed in the right of workers to withdraw their labour when any of these conditions were lacking.

He therefore quite often threatened (but rarely followed through) strike action, and for this he was hated by right-wing media and politicians alike. Yet what is the bleating excuse of those same right-wing voices for the scandal of multi-million pound bonuses in the City? “We must not interfere with the sacred rituals of the market or these people will just go somewhere else.”

In other words, withdraw their labour. Couple this with the “tax strike” in which the rich have indulged for ages and one realises exactly who are the forces holding the country to ransom.

Steve Edwards, Wivelsfield Green, East Sussex

Though I am no apologist for trades unions, I really must say how moved I was by today’s cartoon (12 March) by Dave Brown on the sudden death of Bob Crow. It was superb – witty, affectionate and wry – and  I’m sure the man himself would have  loved it.

Jenny Adams, Cardiff 

The adulation of Bob Crow seems to have missed the obvious point. Yes, he achieved a lot for his members, especially those working on the London Underground. However, how many of his demands were met because the management had little choice when the alternative was the paralysis of London?

He kept his finger on the industrial equivalent of a nuclear trigger and made sure that everyone knew that he was prepared to use it. He backed this up by showing scant consideration of the consequences to other workers and their employers.

How successful would he have been had his members been employed in an industry where management could resist, or even “walk away”? Could he have delivered so much in a car plant? He picked his battles well, like many generals; perhaps that’s why he won.

Tim Brook, Bristol

Who would you want defending your corner, Bob Crow or Ed Miliband?

Steven Calrow, Liverpool

Lockerbie theory vindicated

The theory put forward in your article “New Lockerbie report says Libyan framed to conceal the real bombers” (12 March) has long been considered the most probable explanation for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, on which my brother Bill Cadman and his girlfriend lost their lives.

You report that there may have been was political interference from Washington and London to protect Syria and Iran. The cover-up, however, grew out of control with the very expensive Camp Zeist trial, and what has always puzzled us is why such a cover-up was necessary. In the vacuum created by false information and manipulation of facts dark fears emerge, and our worst-case scenario remains that the bombing was allowed to happen, and that my brother and the other 278 people on board were offered up as sacrificial victims to appease Iran.

We felt right from the beginning that something was being kept from us: the CIA were out in force on Scottish soil before the work of identifying bodies had been properly undertaken, and the brave Dr David Fieldhouse who worked tirelessly on the night of 21 December finding and labelling bodies, and who gave evidence in the Scottish fatal accident inquiry, was discredited publicly, although he later received an apology.

One theory was that Flight 103 was regularly used in the drugs-for-arms circuit connecting Nicaragua  to Iran, and that the message instructing carriers to  “put suspect packages in the hold” was in some way connected to this. It would have been relatively easy to slip a bomb on to a plane in this context.

My father, Martin Cadman, was haunted by the memory of being told by a member of the American Presidential Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism that our government knew what had happened but that the truth would not come out. He has now lost his memory and it is very bitter to me that now truths that he shouted from the rooftops against the prevailing wind are commonly reported as facts.

Marion Irvine, L’Aquila, Italy

Manipulating the market

The Bank of England’s attempt to clarify any alleged involvement in manipulating the foreign exchange market has to be applauded. However, this issue goes way back before 2006, or even the deregulation of the City in 1986 which many cite as the start of the decline in governance in the financial services sector.

I worked as a junior employee in the foreign exchange dealing room of a major high street bank during the 1976 sterling crisis, which saw the pound under pressure on the foreign exchange markets. I vividly recall the chief officer running into the dealing room and shouting to traders that they were to start big purchases of sterling, in concert with the other British high street banks at the behest of the Bank of England, in order to influence the pound exchange rate.

Steven Walker, Walton on Naze, Essex

Inexcusable cull of senior nurses

Your article “Cull of the matrons: thousands of senior nursing posts axed” (11 March) highlights some very serious problems facing the NHS.

In addition to the loss of experience and skills that senior nurses bring to the wards, there is a knock-on effect on clinical supervision. Senior nurses and matrons play a valuable role in helping to support and guide less-experienced staff. This includes junior doctors, who rely on nurses with experience as they start their new jobs in the summer each year.

A number of the senior nurses the NHS is in danger of “culling” have specialist clinical skills in, for example, cancer and coronary diseases. To “cull” this experience is inexcusable .

This government should make a realistic assessment of the impact of its cuts on the NHS – especially on the staff who are at the sharp end of so much criticism.

Christina McAnea, Head of Health,  UNISON,  London NW1

Birds of prey in the grouse estates’ sights

Your article on grouse shooting (7 March) did not mention the persecution of birds of prey on upland moors in Scotland and North England, where  hen harriers now no  longer breed.

I recently spent a week in the North Pennines in Northumberland, where any bird or mammal that may interfere with the interests of red grouse shooting is classed as vermin and ruthlessly trapped or shot, for the benefit of “rich enthusiasts from around the world” who will climb up the social ladder after bagging a brace of grouse.

Despite a spokesman for the Moorland Association, which represents grouse shooters, saying that “it fuels the local economy in remote areas”, the few people I spoke to in the area did not agree with this view, some in fact detesting the activities of the shooting fraternity.

Although the scarce black grouse are now protected, people seemed to think they are also sometimes shot as they would have an even better price tag on their heads.

Peter Brown, Brighton

Political evolution in the Gulf states 

The article by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, “A reminder that the Gulf states are evil empires” (10 March) is thoroughly wrong-headed. The current Arabian Gulf monarchies are not perfect but are evolving in the direction of more representative government, some more rapidly  than others.

Between 1999 and 2009 I had the privilege of working for long periods in Kuwait on technical training programmes. Women and men, young Kuwaiti graduates, were educated together on challenging and complex assignments.

In Kuwait, adult women and men have the vote, are elected to Parliament and are not oppressed. In Kuwait there have been women ministers.

We have seen other monarchies in the Arab world and the Gulf disastrously replaced by very nasty dictatorships (Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, Iran).

Instead let us support the evolutionary not revolutionary politics so well displayed by our natural friends in the kingdoms of the Gulf and in north Africa.

Michael A G Bunter, Conwy

Reporting sex crime allegations

On Tuesday, The Independent carried stories referring to allegations of “gay sex assault” made against Nigel Evans MP, yet somehow neglected to characterise allegations made against Max Clifford as “heterosexual assault”. Would you care to account for the inconsistency?

Iain Barbour, Edinburgh

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