Letters: Brown's apologies

Forget Turing, Brown has plenty else to apologise for
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The Independent Online

Only the most rapid homophobe could deny that a great evil was done to Alan Turing. But for Gordon Brown to issue an apology is entirely fatuous (11 September). He is not to blame personally, having been only a child at the time. If he presumes to apologise on behalf of the British people as a whole, count me out: I will not be held responsible for any wrong that was committed before I was even born. So I won't be apologising for the Irish potato famine, or slavery, the bombing of Dresden, or the burning of heretics. These were iniquities, but they were nothing to do with me.

Nobody has the right to apologise on someone else's behalf, nor to apologise to anyone other than the injured party – and regrettably, in Turing's case the injured party is no longer around. Unfortunately, however, such glib platitudes have come to be recognised as a hallmark of New Labour.

If Brown wants to make a public show of genuine contrition, he should confine himself to the things for which he is personally responsible. For example, as Chancellor of the Exchequer and later Prime Minister, he encouraged the gross financial irresponsibility which led ultimately to the most catastrophic recession in decades. And as a senior member of Tony Blair's cabinet, he acquiesced in the systematic deception of the British people and Parliament to obtain support for invading Iraq, leading directly to the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people.

But of course he won't. Shirking responsibility for one's own misdemeanours, under cover of a meaningless apology for the actions of others, is the refuge of a coward and a hypocrite.

John Shepherd

Cockermouth, Cumbria

Strike could spell end for Royal Mail

I have always been a supporter of Royal Mail, but I am beginning to doubt whether it will survive the current industrial dispute.

At the time of writing, at least four packages are in transit to me – and have been for some time. One, posted just before the August Bank Holiday contains coir bricks (a convenient alternative to potting compost). Another contains an Alessi bowl from Amazon (bought as a birthday present, but unlikely to arrive in time). Another contains visitors' parking vouchers bought online, but too late for the next round of visitors. And finally there is a large supply of replacement cartridges for my cats' "Litter Locker". My parcels are just a few out of the millions caught in the back-log of undelivered mail.

If I were an online retailer – and wanted to stay in business – I would be looking for alternatives to Royal Mail.

Rita Hale

London N1

I agree with much of what your editorial said about the damage being done to Royal Mail and the economy by the current postal disputes (17 September), but you and your readers might be interested in the reality of this "modernisation".

I am a leave reserve postman working in West Oxon. My hours of duty are 6am to 2.12pm. The traditional appeal of the job is the early start and finish, which suits the childcare issues and other commitments staff may have.

Under the Royal Mail's "Operation Pegasus", many town rounds are being "collapsed". Their routes are divided into stretches which are then added on to the rounds of posties doing rural deliveries. Thus, although overall mail volume may be declining due to electronic mail and the recession, delivery routes are getting ever larger with the inevitable result that we are increasingly running over our scheduled time.

When I started working for the Royal Mail five years ago it was unusual to see a postie working until 3pm, but now one can be still delivering mail beyond 4pm. Many colleagues on supposed "walk" rounds have had to resort to using their own uninsured cars on delivery because of the extra workload.

"Modernisation" is a convenient word which implies that anyone who objects to changes must be either a militant or Neanderthal. But many of us in Royal Mail feel that we are being actively goaded into voting "Yes" in the national strike ballot.

How many of your readers would not want to fight against their pay being frozen at the same time as their workload was being increased?

Name and address supplied

On behalf of everyone who will be affected by the likely upcoming postal strike, may I ask the Union and management to skip the traditional sequence of blame and recrimination – whereby each side refuses to speak to each other, but carries on a media campaign blaming the other for the chaos, before finally meeting to discuss their various problems. In this instance, could we just jump straight to the finale?

Colin Bower


Rice requires clean water

Although any new development that could reduce levels of malnutrition on the Indian subcontinent is to be welcomed ("Scientists find lifesaver for India – rice that doesn't have to be cooked", 17 September), unless such rice is steeped in clean, potable water, then it could prove a killer rather than a lifesaver. One of the biggest problems facing the poor in South Asia is access to water that is free of pathogens and parasites. Until they have this, consumers of this new grain will have to continue boiling rice in water if they are to avoid the diseases that kill many thousands of men, women and children across the region every year.

Michael Pickett

Crawley, West Sussex

There's no money in divorce

Christina Patterson's take on marriage as a "gold-digger's free-for-all" (17 September) is born of too much tabloid-reading. For every pop star's "ex" with a multimillion-pound settlement, there are thousands of wives/husbands who end up a lot poorer through divorce.

Decades ago, as a law student in Canada – where alimony was determined according to need and ability to pay – I was shocked to learn that over 90 per cent of fathers had stopped paying child support a year after divorce. When the court "garnisheed" their wages, some fathers would quit their jobs rather than pay a penny to "that bitch" – even though child support and alimony were different things.

Counting on any ex-spouse to support one is unwise, even assuming he/she is rich enough to do so. The truth is that in most families, there's no gold to dig. Few husbands or wives can afford to run two households. More coverage of this simple fact, and less fascination with "gold-digger" settlements, might promote more realism about marriage and divorce.

Anne Thackray

Toronto, Ontario

School trips can cost the Earth

Your front page of 16 September warns of the devastating effects of global warming. All the main political parties are talking about the importance of tackling climate change, but, even now, there seems to be a lack of concrete actions and leadership.

I see this "disconnect" on a smaller scale at my daughter's school, a local comprehensive, whose website takes a strong, righteous line on the environment. Indeed, the school recently produced an amazing installation about climate change, including brilliant artwork by students illustrating sustainable living.

So I was incredulous when my daughter told me about a school ski trip that is being planned to take students to the US for six days during the February half-term, at a cost of £900 per pupil. I wrote to the school saying this seemed misjudged, and asking why it had to be to the US, when there are plentiful places to learn winter sports in Europe, or Scotland even. The reply I received did not address my environmental concerns.

How can we carry on, trying to avert the threat of a 2 per cent increase in world temperatures, unless people in responsible positions make sensible choices? I would love my daughter to learn how to ski – she would love that, too – but there is no way I could afford the trip on offer, from either a financial or a moral standpoint.

Sophia Unwin

London SW2

Calais refugees deserve better

Until there are adequate arrangements in place in all European countries to look after refugees then we are likely to see the problems in Calais repeated again and again ("French to chop down the Calais 'Jungle'", 18 September). Some of the people in Calais are refugees who fear being returned to their country of origin, while others are concerned they will be returned to those parts of the EU where the treatment of asylum seekers remains woefully inadequate. The UK Government should work with France and other European states to raise standards of refugee protection across Europe and to ensure that there are proper mechanisms to identify those who have fled persecution and are in need of sanctuary.

Donna Covey

Chief Executive, Refugee Council,

London SW9

The French have been very patient with us; perhaps they're hoping a change of UK government will bring some meaningful border control that won't lure predatory people-traffickers, or welfare reform that will start to dismantle our colossal home-grown industry in benefits manipulation which acts as a further magnet.

In the meantime, the camps have to be cleared, and the bleeding hearts will be out in force. We might even see Dunkirk-style flotillas sailing from Dover to support the removal of all border controls.

Nobody who has watched the squalid scenes on television can fail to be distressed and we all wish to see people from the developing world find a better life. But the only way to do this is to end the rewards for traffickers. And the only way to do that is to introduce border controls worthy of the name and a benefits system that is not riddled with loopholes and perverse incentives.

Andrew Schofield

London SE17

Having recently visited the "Jungle" in Calais and filmed migrants living in hellish conditions, we were appalled to learn of French Minister Eric Besson's clearance plans. The "Jungle" is home to up to 2,000 migrants, many as young as 13. They have no right to work, no money, no papers, nowhere else to sleep and no family. Besson's claim that clearance will be "humane" is a travesty; it will be anything but.

The British Government must take equal responsibility for this action, as it is Britain's immigration controls that are forcing migrants to live under plastic sheets in Calais. Opening the border would solve the problem instantly and properly endorse the terrific aspirations of these young migrants.

Viv Regan & Onyeka Igwe

London E5

Rail vs Games

Why has the Scottish Government chosen to abandon the Glasgow airport rail link, which would be of lasting benefit to the people of Scotland, while still proposing to squander money on public entertainment in the shape of the 2014 Commonwealth Games? Is this the modern equivalent of "beer and circuses"?

John Eoin Douglas


Flawed film choice

Of course, Anthony Quinn's "100 best films" will be his personal choice, but his list serves to prop up an impoverished view of cinema based on Hollywood, and to confirm the prejudice, smugness and ignorance of the UK public. He chooses 55-plus American films, but one Russian, one Spanish, and zero Chinese, Korean, Indian, Iranian and Mexican. In fact, nothing from South America, Africa, central, eastern or southern Europe at all. Nothing from the Muslim world. Nothing by a woman, by his own admission "particularly troubling". Surely we deserve better?

Steve Tiller

London N1

Missing links

In "Suicide bombs kill nine in 'revenge' attack" (18 September), the strike on the African Union in Mogadishu is described as being in response to the targeted killing of "a leading al-Qa'ida suspect", Salah Ali Salah Nabhan. Members and affiliates of the al-Shabaab movement are increasingly described as "al-Qa'ida linked", a notion which is highly misleading. Nabhan was not an al-Qa'ida operative, but rather someone who was engaged in a series of terrorist activities which could be traced to specific local or regional causes.

Jared Ahmad

Oldham Lamb to slaughter

Irene Barker (letters, 16 September) decries the fact that the children of Lydd Primary School were allowed to bond with a lamb that was then slaughtered. The bond food producers have with their animals ensures high welfare standards. When animals become merely a commodity they and the environment suffer.

Giles Bradshaw

Rose Ash, Devon

Time sexist?

Doesn't David Ridge (letters, 19 September), who writes that he stands still in time's flow, realise that "Time, like an ever-rolling stream, / Bears all its sons away"? It's the daughters who stand still.

Alan Marshfield