Driving through Winchester the other evening I saw a delivery man running to meet the strict timescales set by his multinational employers. I thought of the harassed checkout woman at our weekly shop at the supermarket and the stressed face of the waiter at the pizza restaurant. These are probably all on a minimum wage and they're having to tighten their belts even further and being taken advantage of by their employers.
Then I looked at The Independent and saw the smiling faces of the elite company executives with bloated salaries and read about the recommendation to reduce their employees' rights. I felt physically sick at the unfairness of it all, but then realised that this is how it always is when the Conservatives are in power. No, we're not all in this together.
The words "Made in Britain" were once a common sight on the products we use every day. One of the reasons it is now rarer has been poor industrial relations, strikes, and the shoddy workmanship of a disaffected labour force.
It is with dismay I read that in this climate of austerity pay rises among the executives of the top 100 companies are averaging almost 50 per cent. While the proportion of a company's money used for paying the directors may be small, it is simply appalling manners. It will be music to the ears of radical socialist politicians, and encourages the job-destroying union militancy that decimated Britain's manufacturing sector.
If our economy is barely growing, are these the right people to be running business? Do we need legislation to allow shareholders and taxpayers to oust greedy and incompetent managers? The Government has pledged to make it easier to sack poor-performing staff. Bosses whose main concern is acquiring personal wealth should be first in line.
A R Wainwright
Andreas Whittam Smith ("Bankers are to blame for this mess. Here's how to make them pay", 27 October) does not go far enough. We would be well rid of our current banking industry.
When I arrived at Imperial College in the early 1980s, I was shocked to discover that the top half of each year's crop of physics graduates abandoned science and technology for highly paid jobs in the City, where they would produce nothing. We are robbed of the contribution they might make.
In the 20 years of its existence, the research group I joined created close to £2bn worth of new industry. While banking has brought shame and despair, our technological tradition brings pride and optimism.
The UK banking industry, as it is currently, is not an asset but a drain on the real economic resource – our brightest and most dynamic people. It stinks like a drain as well,
Philip Hensher (29 October), opines: "I find it almost impossible to give a toss about inequality". He should. The inequality that Britain faces is not, as he claims, attributable to "the inequality of [people's] own labours and responsibilities".
Over the past decade, the pay of the super-rich, such as the heads of FTSE 100 companies, has skyrocketed, despite generally mediocre performance.
Mr Hensher says: "We've allowed concerns about inequality of income to swamp concerns about what truly matters; inequality of opportunity."
The two are interlinked. Families on low incomes will struggle to educate their children to the standard that affluent families can. Books, newspapers, trips to museums, homes within good schools' catchment areas, all cost money. A meritocracy cannot exist in a society blighted by inequality.
It's not just the Scots who hate waking in the dark
The Tory MP Greg Knight asserts: "Millions will be less happy than they could be after British Summer Time ends this weekend."
I for one will be much happier of a morning. Only the other day I thought "roll on GMT" when I woke up in the pitch black at 6.30am, in London.
We hear a lot about Scottish farmers when this debate comes around once a decade or so. Less often mentioned is the extra morning darkness even south-east England would endure.
With GMT there are currently 30 days each winter when the sun rises at 8am or later. That would go up to 110 days with BST all the year round. For the best part of a month London would have a sunrise after 9am. I fail to see the cheer in that.
The claim by the Greenwich Mean Timers that "everyone north of Manchester would be disadvantaged" by the abolition of GMT should be challenged.
I live a few miles from Hadrian's Wall and I, in common with almost everyone I know locally, dreads the end of British Summer Time.
We must all get up in the dark in the winter, and it makes little difference whether the dark persists until 8am or 9am. It makes a good deal more difference to us that it will soon be dark by 4pm, when it might have been 5pm.
So, we put the clocks back. I hate it, but there are arguments on both sides. There isn't an argument, though, for the blatant imbalance in timing.
We darken the evenings now, about seven weeks before the solstice, but won't lighten them again until 25 March, some 14 weeks after the shortest day. Why?
The sound of mute swans
I was impressed by the timeliness of Michael McCarthy's article "Wild swans from Siberia and Iceland have arrived" (28 October). Most mornings, I walk my dog close to our local loch. The small resident population of mute swans swells in winter, often to over 100. In addition, we receive regular winter visits from whooper swans, although the latter seem to avoid the loch, and graze in fields a few miles away.
A close re-reading of Yeats's poem leaves no doubt. The swans he describes on Coole are definitely mute swans. Yesterday morning, as we walked past the loch, a small group of mute swans flew overhead, their wing-beats making the distinctive sound which Yeats describes so well ("The bell-beat of their wings above my head").
This morning, the mute swans were not flying, but a large skein of geese flew over, closely followed by a group of about half a dozen whooper swans. The contrast was obvious. There was no sound of wing-beats, just the typical loud whooping chorus from which the birds get their name. These are certainly not the swans to which Yeats was referring.
I have seen no Bewick swans yet this autumn, but their sound is similar to that of the whoopers – certainly no musical wing-beats.
Laurence C Williams
Does cancer screening work?
From the age of 50, women are invited to have a mammogram for the early detection of signs of breast cancer. It is our decision to accept or decline that invitation.
I am a recently diagnosed breast cancer patient. Without a mammogram I would have been unaware of my condition which, left undetected, could progress more seriously.
To my mind a "better safe than sorry" approach is far more acceptable than the alternative of hoping it will be OK. No woman wants to see her body "mutilated", but these days from my own experience everything possible is done to avoid that.
I wonder if, when the review of the NHS breast screening programme is conducted, the opinions of us women will be taken into account. I sincerely hope they are. I for one will be continuing to have mammograms and would encourage all eligible women to do the same.
Regarding the breast screening debate, I should like to point out that 11 years ago I had a mammogram which I was told was normal. Four months later I felt a lump in my breast and was referred to the breast clinic, where I had a further mammogram and a fine-needle biopsy.
The mammogram still showed no evidence that anything was amiss but then the biopsy showed that I had a stage two tumour.
I then had five months of chemotherapy, a mastectomy operation and six weeks of radiotherapy. Unfortunately, last year the cancer returned in my bones and I now have a terminal prognosis.
Sometimes screening doesn't detect cancer.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Cheering news for loyal subjects
Might I be one of the first to offer congratulations to David Cameron on his bold new policy statement which emerged during his trip to Australia. As the British people labour under the burdens of rising prices, disappearing jobs and diminished public services it is comforting to know that our Parliament will be spending time considering and amending the statutory provisions which govern the pecking order of the privileged few.
We should all be grateful for this move which is clearly intended as a morale booster in our time of trouble.
OK, so the firstborn child will ultimately become monarch, whether a girl or a boy. But what's with this ageism? Why the first child? Why not the second or third?
Hoping for a 'living hell'
Everybody will appreciate what a terrible ordeal Jo Yeates's parents must have gone through . However, I hope that I am not alone in finding something distasteful about the statement, read out on their behalf, wishing for capital punishment and hoping that the remainder of the convicted criminal's life is "a living hell".
Whatever the family may think in private, such a statement should not be intended for the ears of the general public. I was appalled. Perhaps it is time to reconsider what useful purpose is served by encouraging and publicising victims' statements of this sort.
Better off with tyrant dead
Journalists and letters page correspondents have expressed disquiet about the apparent summary execution of Gaddafi. Has anyone considered that had he been handed over to The Hague his defence lawyers would have claimed he was unfit to plead because of insanity, probably resulting in his being committed to a secure unit rather than prison, with no opportunity to question him about sale of weapons to the IRA, the killing of WPC Fletcher or the Lockerbie bombing.
At least he can no longer be a living symbol to his supporters and Libya has a chance to move forward.