Letters: Breakaway London? Good riddance

These letters appear in the Tuesday 3rd June edition of the Independent

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Yasmin Alibhai-Brown should be very careful about what she wishes for (“London is a special place – let’s declare it a separate city state”, 2 June). 

London is a dysfunction in the United Kingdom. It sucks the best out of the rest of the nation and then whinges about being overcrowded and expensive. I am dismayed every time I hear a science, engineering or maths student at a top university say that their ambition is to work in investment banking in the City. 

If London were to declare independence, you should not be surprised if the borders are strictly enforced, with no movements in or out. No more stealing our talent or escaping to your cottage in the Cotswolds. Why should we supply you with food or water or even let you use our airspace? Does it sound like an East German attitude to West Berlin? Maybe, but some of us would prefer a smaller cake shared more evenly.

Peter English, Rhewl, Denbighshire

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown reveals herself as the ultimate patronising London bore.

Why people spend hundreds of thousands of pounds merely to live in some shoe box beside a railway line within the M25 is beyond me. A hugely better standard of living is to be had in virtually any other city in the country.

London is too big, too expensive and not especially attractive to look at – Paris, Rome or Vienna, for instance, it is not.

Anthony Ingleton, Sheffield

Let’s vote now on Europe

Thirty per cent of the electorate voted in the European elections and 30 per cent of them voted for Ukip. Another 8 per cent voted for the Greens and nearly 26 per cent voted for the Tories. All these parties say they want a referendum on Europe. The Tories only want one in 2017. The Greens and Ukip want a referendum now. The Greens and David Cameron want to stay in the EU.

Over 60 per cent of those who voted want a referendum and more than half of them want one straight away. Can we just get on with it please and have this referendum? I do not know why those in favour of staying in the EU are so afraid of an immediate referendum.

Nigel F Boddy, Darlington, Co Durham

Clegg too sensible for his own good

As the much smaller party in the Coalition, the Lib Dems were always going to be obliged to make compromises, whoever their leader. But they have nevertheless succeeded in curbing some of the excesses of Toryism.

Nick Clegg appears to be one of our more honourable politicians. What he says is generally perfectly reasonable. But he says it in a low-key way acceptable to people willing to listen and think. This is his major sin. If he were in the habit of hanging about looking very pleased with himself, holding a pint in one hand and a fag in the other, his party might have done better in the recent elections.

Democracy may be the least bad system of government but, sad to say, it enables us to choose the wrong people for the wrong reasons.

Susan Alexander, Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire

The Liberal Democrat party is like the Titanic. The fourth frame has been breached and it is on the way to the bottom. Mr Clegg, like Captain Smith, is safe in his position.

George D Lewis, Brackley, Northamptonshire

Escape from the half-term nightmare

Three times a year, schools take a half-term holiday. Having taught in schools myself, I know just how important and necessary those breaks are. However, I also know that they cause tremendous disruption in all sorts of ways. Trains and Tubes are packed, it’s impossible to get into museums and art galleries, and the travel industry takes appalling advantage by putting up costs.

Last week seems to have been particularly bad. As I have travelled around London, going from one appointment to another, it has been almost nightmarish coping with the hordes blocking passageways and platforms. Indeed it has been positively dangerous, with platforms alarmingly clogged by children and frazzled parents.

Surely it would not be beyond the wit of the authorities to stagger these half-term breaks. Were they to take place over, say, a three-week period, it would not only remove the extra burden placed on our public transport system but, with luck, end those price-hikes.

Colin Baldy, Maldon, Essex

The marbles belong where they are

Howard Jacobson, seduced by the warmth of both the climes and the people of Greece, makes an emotional plea for the return of the Parthenon pediment sculptures (31 May). However, his sense that “they don’t belong to us” is too simplistic.

The British Museum is a unique assembly of culturally defining artefacts drawn from across time and space. The objects converse with each other so as to relate a narrative of humanity that would be impossible were they to be exhibited as singular items. These artefacts are not possessions – not of individuals, not of nations. They are global cultural capital.

It is far better that the “Elgin Marbles” remain in a place that situates them  and what they represent within the context of a wider range of human endeavour in an accessible and, I am proud to say, free environment that attracts thousands of international visitors every year.

Philip Stephenson, Cambridge

Fill those empty homes first

We are always being told there is a need for one million new homes. For years, there have been over a million empty homes nationwide, and now added to these are an enormous number of empty foreign-owned investment properties in London.

We could give incentives to restore flats above shops, convert storage and offices that are not needed etc. Second homes could surely be much higher rated if they are left predominantly unused.

In the last census of the 250,000 second homes, three quarters were used for less than one month a year.

Of course we must build, but also use what is there efficiently. House prices will then stabilise and this crazy spiral will stop.

Bill Jackson, Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Women in sport aren’t the same – they win

I disagree with John Moore (letter, 2 June). Attendance at women’s sporting events will increase with more media coverage, and anyway the women’s England football and cricket teams are achieving excellent results, which is more than you can say for the men’s teams – and it’s results that matter.

Linda Dickins, Wimborne, Dorset

Save Syria from the dictator and the extremists

Patrick Cockburn is correct that Assad feels under little pressure to reach a peaceful settlement in Syria – since there has not been any effective international response to Assad’s campaign of aggression, even the repeated use of  chemical weapons against civilians (“Fighting a war at the ballot box”, 29 May).

Mr Cockburn states that Assad “currently holds 13 out of 14 Syrian provincial capitals and his forces are slowly advancing in many parts of the country”. However it is important that readers do not take from this that Assad is winning, given that most of the north and east of Syria is outside of Assad’s control – over 60 per cent of the country. For every advance that his forces claim to have made, there is a setback that they suffer elsewhere in the country.

For example, last week the Free Syrian Army won an important strategic military victory in the north by taking over the military point of Al Khazanaat, meaning it now controls the supply route north of Hama, up to Idlib and Aleppo.

During this operation, many tanks and pieces of equipment were taken, in what was a huge blow to the regime. To give further examples: 40 per cent of Hama, 60 per cent of Aleppo, and 100 per cent of Deir Ezzor are outside regime control.

Assad caused the negotiations in Geneva to collapse by refusing to accept political transition as per the Geneva Communiqué road map. Since it seems that he only understands force, the West should help the moderate opposition with arms and training.

If Assad is not tackled, he will end up ruling  over a brutalised and devastated section  of Syria, and continue with his war, causing the escalation of a historic-scale humanitarian catastrophe, and also the strengthening of extremists, as moderates are frustrated and weakened.

The world surely does not wish to allow either a brutal dictator or extremists to win in Syria, for the spillover would soon affect other countries in the region, and maybe Europe.

Monzer Akbik, Chief of Staff to  Ahmad Jarba, President of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, Istanbul

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