Letters: Boston innocents in the path of terror

These letters are published in the print edition of The Independent, 18th April, 2013

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Who could fail to be affected by the picture of Martin Richard on your front page today (17 April)?

The bombing that caused his death may be the work of a lunatic, and in that case we need not ask the question why, as on the lips of the President of the United States of America. The answer is close to imponderable.

It may be that it is the work of a terrorist body, and in that case the answer is self-evident: who can look at the face of that innocent child and not see the faces of other innocents killed by American weaponry in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan?

We should all be free to enjoy a day of celebration and life-affirming ritual without such terrible shadows as those that visited the Boston Marathon. I hope the people of places such as Pakistan will one day be free to celebrate communal events, such as weddings, without the spectre of collateral damage from drone attacks. Such things swiftly turn the minds of men towards revenge.

Charles Court, Perth


According to a report on page 30 of Tuesday’s Independent 36 people were killed in car bomb attacks in Iraq. According to the front and several inside pages of both Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s editions, three people were killed in bomb attacks in Boston, which apparently also shook Britain. Really?

While we persist in making it clear that events, and by implication people, in the West in general and in America in particular, are more important than they are elsewhere, we strengthen the hand of rebels in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and undermine our already ill-fated efforts to bring peace and stability to those benighted countries.

Ian Richards, Birmingham


Can Tories ever win without Thatcher?

I noted the smugness and glee of a large number of Margaret Thatcher opponents on her departure as Leader of the Conservative Party and as Prime Minister (Archives, 13 April).

Two years later John Major scraped into government with a majority of 21 (down from 102 under Mrs Thatcher). The party then lost heavily in the following three elections, under no fewer than three leaders, all very capable politicians but unable to win elections before David Cameron came along.

Despite sound evidence that Labour practically bankrupted the country, Cameron failed to secure a working majority. To compound matters, the party now has a less than even chance of winning the next election in 2015 against an increasingly able Ed Miliband.

This will make it 25 years and counting for the Conservative Party to be without genuine power since the event that cheered up so many anti-Thatcher Tories. Talk about poetic justice.

Kevin Newman, Hitchin, Hertfordshire


The question is asked: “Did Thatcher change Britain?” Maybe she did and maybe she didn’t. But she changed me.

I lived through the Cold War and the Falklands War and the riots of the early 1980s and the Great Miners’ Strike. I spent a year on the dole and I saw mass unemployment and mass poverty.

I lived through a time where a tiny minority became hugely wealthy and taunted the poor with their wealth. I saw the Young Conservatives screaming for the death of Nelson Mandela and watched the Tory faithful bellowing for “four more years” for Thatcher. I was transformed.

She convinced me that Marxism was true. She showed me there was a class war and that she was fighting for her class with vigour while the leaders of my class – in the TUC and Labour Party – were lacklustre and cowardly. I joined the SWP to fight for socialism. I have never looked back. 

I was in Trafalgar Square during the poll tax riot. I was one of millions who broke Thatcher’s “flagship” and broke Thatcher politically. Now she’s dead. I want the system she worshipped to follow her into the grave.

Sasha Simic, London N16


Contrary to popular belief, Margaret Thatcher was not the first female prime minister nor the first female politician to be dubbed “the Iron Lady”. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir was the original “Iron Lady”. Nor was Thatcher the first prominent female British politician to rise to government from an “ordinary” background. 

The formerly demure, softly spoken, Lincolnshire-born Thatcher surely borrowed much from Barbara Castle’s strident (and genuine) northern accent. She also imitated Castle’s sharp-suited handbagging style and even copied her “power hair”. Although poles apart politically, Thatcher owed her fellow Oxford alumna Castle a huge debt as a pioneering female politician. 

Had Labour not failed to modernise and tame the unions in the 1960s, Barbara Castle, not Margaret Thatcher, would have become Britain’s first female prime minister.

Anthony Rodriguez, Staines, Middlesex


I wonder what exactly made some so jubilant about the death of a former prime minister.

It was as a politician that Mrs Thatcher affected us – whether positively or negatively – so the appropriate time to celebrate her demise would have been when she lost that political power over us.

I find it impossible to understand how her actual death can have any beneficial effect on anyone, and I doubt whether anyone celebrating it is more satisfied than on the previous day. What have they gained?

Robert Dow

Tranent, East Lothian


To quote her: “Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice!” That is what I and many did as the woman who destroyed many communities was buried.

Pravin Vaja, London NW1


Tony Blair has declared that we should “show respect” for Mrs Thatcher, even if we strongly disagreed with her – but AC Grayling (9 April) is surely right to insist that the millions who personally suffered under the brutal impact of her policies have every right to express their feelings.

Mr Blair neither shared nor, evidently, comprehends this bitter experience. Indeed, given his wholesale adoption of Mrs Thatcher’s policies into New Labour, he scarcely knows what it’s like to disagree with her either.

Andrew Clifton, Bradford on Avon


Benedict Le Vay is right to say our quality of life is much better than in the 1970s, thanks  to Margaret Thatcher (letter, 17 April), with the exception of “being able to go to a good local school instead of being ordered to go to a failing sink school by council prodnoses”. 

The comprehensive experiment survived Thatcher and Major, and we still have a system where LEAs decide who goes to which school. Micheal Gove is attempting to rectify this, and anyone in the happy situation Mr Le Vay describes today probably has him to thank.

It remains to be seen if he can make the predicament of parents forced to send their children to schools they know are failing them a thing of the past.

Rupert Fast, Esher, Surrey


When Winston Churchill died in 1965, my primary school classmates and I were asked to produce scrapbooks of his life and of his funeral from newspaper and magazine cuttings. I’ve still got mine. I wonder how many schools will ask their pupils to do the same for Margaret Thatcher.

David Keeley, Hornchurch, Essex


In times of severe austerity and with a faltering NHS, it is reassuring to know one can choose to end one’s days in a first-class London hotel.

Philip Wilson, Barnet,  Hertfordshire


It would appear that I am not alone in deploring, in equal measure, the distasteful use of a pop tune and the grandiose scale of a funeral. May we all now rest in peace.

Francis Woodley, Okehampton,  Devon


Strasbourg shuttle

It’s not bed bugs which concern me (Diary, 16 April ); it’s people who continue to spread the idea that the European Parliament has the power to “give up its expensive and time-wasting practice of meeting sometimes in Brussels and  sometimes in Strasbourg”. The decision to meet for 12 sessions a year in Strasbourg was part of the Maastricht Treaty agreed by member state governments and signed up to by John Major.

Unfortunately, MEPs have no powers to alter this, though many of us will continue to campaign to do so.

Glenis Willmott, Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, Nottingham


Energy giants avoid taxation

It is not acceptable that yet another firm has avoided paying tax in the UK (“Npower’s three years of zero corporation tax”, 17 April). How can it be that the poorest people in the UK are struggling to put food on the table and heat their homes while a company with reported profits of as much as £766m has contributed no tax?

The Government needs to make sure big corporations are not able to avoid paying tax because of “simple accounting rules”. If everyone in the UK contributed their fair share of tax then the Government could use the revenues to reverse some of the cuts they have made to services that the most vulnerable rely upon.

Chris Johnes, Director of UK Poverty, Oxfam, Oxford


The old slogan of Hector the Inspector that “tax doesn’t need to be taxing” will come as news to the six energy giants being grilled by MPs about low tax bills.

There is no suggestion that they have acted illegally, but they stand accused of using “tricks” to avoid paying their “fair share” of tax. Who decides what is “fair”? The current name-and-shame approach seems to be a modern version of the ducking chair, where the accused is ducked until they accept guilt, or drown (a sure sign of guilt). 

Some people see the new General Anti-Avoidance Rule (GAAR) as the way to clarify how morality and law interact.  Let us hope the GAAR Advisory Committee has at least one member called Solomon.

Andrew Watters, Partner, Thomas Eggar LLP, London EC4


Cloudy outlook

We often see the Arts Council commission silly things for loads of money, but has there been any stranger than Column to be sited in Merseyside? In this case the artist, Anthony McCall, has been defeated by “regulatory and technical challenges” in attempting to erect his “cloud sculpture column”. Hmm. I wonder how the locals might have reacted to extra cloud on Merseyside. Any chance of a sun column?

Martin Murray, London SW2


Koreans in peril

In all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about students put at risk by John Sweeney’s jaunt to North Korea, no one seems to remember the people really put in danger – the party’s guides. They will certainly suffer censure, and probably far worse, for failing to spot the team of reporters.

Dr D G C Jones, Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys