Letters: Britain resumes its rightful place

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, 9 July, 2013


At this moment, all over the world, Brits are looking at foreigners and saying “Andy Murray” with pride. The conversation could be about the weather or what to have for lunch; it could be at an international conference on deep-sea fish; it doesn’t matter. Bring up any topic as a foreigner with a Brit today and he will simply look at you with smug superiority and say: “Andy Murray”.

Aliens could descend from the depths of space, land in Trafalgar Square, emerge with their ray-guns and demand our surrender, and we would do no more than look them squarely in the eye and say: “Andy Murray”.

For 77 years we’ve known that we’re better than the foreigners, and for 77 years the foreigners have refused to acknowledge that fact and lose in reasonable fashion. It was time to teach them a lesson, stop being gentlemen and win. Now we have demonstrated what we have always known: that we are, always have been and always will be the best.

Any day but today, I’d be an Englishman. Today I am British.

Pete Marchetto, Guilin, Guangxi Province, China

The Prime Minister said that Andy Murray deserved a knighthood. It shows that David Cameron was, like many of us, caught up in all the emotion of Sunday afternoon. Andy Murray is, however, right – a knighthood is for more than winning a Wimbledon title at the age of 26. A knighthood recognises a lifetime’s achievement. 

Lester May, London NW1

The honours system has become devalued. In the past the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin or David Lean had to wait decades and prove they weren’t flashes in the pan. Even sporting greats such as Roger Bannister and Bobby Charlton had to wait. Now you just have to win a single sporting event.

John Boylan, Hatfield, Hertfordshire

Andy Murray still has some way to go to match other British tennis players: Fred Perry won three consecutive Wimbledon Championships (1934-1936), Reggie Doherty four consecutive titles (1897-1900) and his brother, Laurie Doherty, five (1902-1906).

Dr John Doherty (no relation), Stratford-upon-Avon

1936, 1977, 2013. How can we make a British win at Wimbledon a rather more frequent occurrence?

Richard Walker, London W7

I wish to complain about the Monday 8 July issue of The Independent. It had 19 pages dedicated to the Andy Murray victory at Wimbledon. That wasn’t enough!

Dave Patchett, Birkenhead, Wirral

It is as I have always maintained: we would not win Wimbledon again until players returned to knee-length shorts.

Teresa Fisher, Bedford

Labour loses touch with the working class

Owen Jones (8 July) shows the clear and present danger surrounding the Labour Party. His article also makes it apparent that many of the Labour candidates are in it for one thing and one thing only – to benefit their own careers.

I live in Scotland, where, although Labour seem to be losing a hold on the Scottish parliament, the party has 41 out of 59 Westminster MPs, many of whom are getting a safe seat election after election. In addition, up and down the country many Blairites are getting in to Parliament who put themselves and their own greed before giving a voice to those in society  who would be unheard in the halls of Parliament.

Jones makes it evident that if the Labour Party ends its link with the unions its last connection with the working class will have been cut.

David Walker, Paisley

It is obvious that the Conservative Party is funded by big business and wealthy patrons who expect the party to legislate so that they may retain their wealth and grow richer. Equally obvious is that the Labour Party is funded by the unions, who expect Labour to legislate so that their members may become wealthier.  

The action by Unite to subvert a by-election is really a consequence of the fact that the Conservatives generally deliver on their promises to their donors whereas the Labour Party does not.

Chris Elshaw, Headley Down, Hampshire

According to Martin London, the country went bust because of New Labour (letter, 2 July). That’s a good example of how a myth takes hold – the reality is very different, as readers will find if they look at the report Labour’s Social Policy Record published by Professors John Hills and Ruth Lupton from LSE. The evidence is that until 2007 national debt levels were lower than when Labour took office.

Has Mr London forgotten that there was a crisis in the financial sector starting in 2008, originating in America with sub-prime mortgages given to people who couldn’t repay them? That started the crumbling of our financial system which was intimately tied up with those bad loans and other financial products that people selling them to us knew to be worthless. The crisis started in the private sector, and government debt rose as our government tried to bolster a financial sector that would otherwise have collapsed, with many of us ordinary people losing our savings and so on.

How and why does history get rewritten in such skewed ways?

Jan Hill, London E5

Prophets of  the internet

Jonathan Shirley (letter, 3 July) is right to point out that the internet was predicted far earlier than many think.

He himself is unaware of the astonishing work (involving more than predictions) of Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine, two lawyers from Brussels who, from the late 19th century until their deaths during the Second World War, laid the foundations of an envisaged global knowledge centre, and who can be regarded as the pioneers of the Web.

Otlet, a major figure in the history of bibliography and information science, in an essay on documentation (1934) introduced the concept of the virtual library, foreseeing “an electric telescope allowing people to read at home” pages from books from libraries around the world. The concepts of digitisation, search engines and Wikipedia were all anticipated by him, sometimes visualised in drawings.

From the beginning of the 20th century, he and La Fontaine had started an ambitious project, the Mundaneum, which today has been called “a paper Google”, “the web time forgot” and “networked knowledge, decades before Google”.

The Mundaneum moved from Brussels to Mons, where a museum was opened in 1998, not least thanks to the support of the city’s  mayor, Elio Di Rupo, now Belgium’s Prime Minister.

An exhibition entitled Renaissance 2.0: A journey through the origins of the Web, sponsored by Google, has been held there recently.

Otlet and La Fontaine were great internationalists who saw their project of instantaneous and free access to universal knowledge as promoting world peace. In 1913, La Fontaine received the Nobel Peace Prize, the last one before the First World War.

Dr Peter van den Dungen, Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford

Arming rebels never works

Recent video footage showed one of the leaders of the Syrian rebels eating the heart of a fallen government soldier.

The UK has recently decided to arm these cannibals. I suggest we send them knives and forks.

Arming one side of a sectarian dispute is unlikely to bring peace. If the US government had bowed to domestic pressure and armed the IRA, we would not now be enjoying peace in Ulster. Arming the Taliban against Najibullah and his Soviet allies in the 1980s did not lead to a democratic, liberal Afghanistan.

Giving arms to unknown rebel groups is the coward’s way of fighting a proxy war. Either send professional soldiers or work towards a political solution.

Henry Lawrence, Kesgrave,  Suffolk

Schools where we need them

Matching school pupils to places is a black art. It requires a good grasp of national and local population statistics, economics and history, as well as a sound local knowledge of transport, special needs, disadvantage, independent schools and population movements.

A sound economic and political aim should be to establish a national system locally administered, with 5 per cent more places than pupils, in schools offering education suited to all ages, abilities and aptitudes (see the 1944 Education Act.)

Instead, Michael Gove is giving us a free-for-all with a Swedish academy next to Twickenham stadium and a Durand inner-city free school in the depths of the Sussex Downlands. No wonder the natives are getting restless!

George Low, Hampton Hill, Middlesex

So the education secretary, Michael Gove, plans to turn state schools into profitable private businesses. Maybe some public-school educated politician should explain why Eton, Rugby, Uppingham, Fettes, Harrow and Charterhouse are all charities?

Education is a very basic human right; it cannot be consumed. How has our political class declined so far as to accept such a blinkered, ignorant, dishonest, business-directed limitation of education as acceptable for state-educated children? We pay taxes for this?

John Nutt, West Buckland, Somerset

Qatada’s rights

Rather than the excess of due process in the Abu Qatada case (leading article, 8 July) being treated as grounds to applaud ourselves on how civilised we all are, the total absence of due process in the Hillsborough, Lawrence and other cases should be of a much greater concern. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the due process in the Qatada case owing to European human rights law?

Laurence Shields, Wingerworth, Derbyshire

Stones’ edge

I must register my amazement at Mary Hodgson’s lack of recognition of the brilliant visceral edge that the Rolling Stones held over any other band you might care to choose for comparison (letter, 8 July). Was she not there at their beginnings? As to pension funds, given the band members’ frantic, and extended, swivel-hipped activities, I can only commend them for ensuring adequate cover for their long-term care needs.

Charles Oglethorpe, Woking, Surrey

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