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- Arts + Ents
Monday 19 March 2012
Wage-cut Tories' politics of envy
I trust that the Chancellor's plan to make the cut in the 50p rate for those earning over £150,000 in the Budget, while cutting the salaries of public-sector workers in poorer parts of the country, indicates that the Coalition considers we are no longer "all in this together"?
Osborne claims that the move would provide a boost to the private sector in the North and South-west, arguing that employers in these areas cannot afford to recruit staff, owing to the relatively high public-sector wages.
What he really means is: "My corporate donors would like to lower their salaries around the country, but have to compete with annoying reasonably paid jobs in the public sector."
These jobs provide people with a modest but dignified income. Cutting their wages will only accelerate the "race to the bottom" and, as salaries fall in both the public and private sectors, cause more families to turn to welfare (tax and housing benefit credits), at the ultimate cost of the taxpayer.
This is a massive corporate handout, which will be paid for by an increased welfare bill, and quality of all public services, not just the NHS, will now be a postcode lottery. Sheer lunacy.
George Osborne's Budget plans once again reveal the new Tory politics of envy.
Public-sector pensions are better than private ones, so cut the public-sector ones. Public-sector wages are better than private ones, so cut public-sector wages. The only cut the rich will face is in the top rate of tax . Look at who is funding the Tory party and you can see where these policies emanate from.
Little wonder that the Met is buying water cannon and rubber bullets.
I wonder if the Chancellor's belief in regional pay will be rolled out to its logical conclusion and include Members of Parliament too.
After all, travel to and from the constituency, the cost of renting a flat in London and paying London-based staff is all covered by expenses; an MP's salary only needs to cover the costs of living and maintaining a home in the constituency.
I trust therefore that the Chancellor will put MPs at the front of the queue for this new policy, and that as an MP from the North-west he will willingly start with his own very ample salary.
Yobbish outbursts have no place at Cambridge
Dr Anne Alexander and others, in objecting to the suspension by Cambridge University of a student who took part in a protest against David Willetts (letter, 17 March) fail to grasp the basic principle of debate in a free and democratic society. It is the ability of a speaker to present their argument before a civilised audience without facing yobbish behaviour or unsolicited "poems".
As Dr Alexander and her colleagues are aware, there are many effective means of social action in a modern society, but downright bad manners is not on the list. Declaiming during Mr Willetts's speech was inconsiderate and clearly not a "peaceful protest". It was certainly a violation of the unwritten rules of etiquette in academia and the wider civilised world.
The offence is especially grave for a graduate student who will expect to defend his dissertation before his examiners without disruption. Competition for places on Cambridge's graduate courses is fierce. On accepting an offer, every student agrees to abide by university statutes. This includes upholding the atmosphere of tolerance and freedom of expression for which Cambridge is renowned worldwide.
On hearing his appeal, the University might do better to reinstate him on acceptance of a formal apology for his actions. Whatever the outcome, the episode highlights the uncomfortable but inescapable truth that radical reform is a bitter but necessary medicine that Cambridge must swallow in order to survive for another eight centuries.
By chance a letter arrived yesterday from my college asking me to donate a regular sum to allow it to support students to make up for funding being withdrawn by the Government. It has now been binned. I hope all Cambridge alumni will stop all donations to their colleges until the university comes to its senses.
Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan
What alternative for the NHS?
I've lost count of the number of #killthebill tweets I've received over the past few weeks, but not one person has so far put forward any cogent alternative. During a long career spent improving efficiency in businesses, I have found that the most common defence of inherent inefficiency, and most difficult mindset to overturn, has always been "But we've always done it like that."
As a country, we are cursed by a "whose budget pays?" mentality which leads to arguments about care of the elderly that are not focused on the wellbeing of the person, but on shuffling responsibility (and cost) between the NHS and local authorities. Greater co-operation between the two, as envisaged in the Bill, at least has the potential to improve care and reduce the overall costs.
In the 1870s, in her Notes on Lying-in Infirmaries, where facilities for women were concerned, Florence Nightingale contrasted the abysmal situation in the UK with the better arrangements in other nations. She wrote: "In France, Germany, and even Russia, they consider it woman-slaughter to practice as we do. In those countries everything is regulated by Government – with us, by private enterprise."
Handing our NHS back to the "Nasty Party" and its private enterprise friends and backers will, surely, move us back to what Florence Nightingale so perceptively wrote about so long ago.
Robert J Jones,
The Government's rationale for changing the NHS is that it is less efficient than other countries. However, the evidence is against the Government as readers can judge for themselves, online, in a study which compared the NHS, the USA and 18 other Western countries, on reducing deaths, in an efficient and effective way. The NHS was the second most effective and efficient out of 20 countries (Pritchard & Wallace, Journal of Royal Society of Medicine, 2011).
Professor Colin Pritchard
Who displaced whom in Israel
Michael Gilbert's letter (15 March) regarding Britain's obstruction of "indigenous and settled Israelis" is misleading.
Israel did not exist until the British Mandate ended in 1948. He is referring to Jewish citizens of Mandate Palestine, over three quarters of whom arrived under the British administration. A minority of Jews who were indigenous Palestinians were divided between those who embraced the new ethno-religious nationalism which Zionism championed, and those who preferred the multi-confessional Palestine in which they had grown up.
As for "the 50 million Arabs" bent on eliminating "less than one million Israelis", Arab forces which entered Palestine amounted to approximately 21,500, against Jewish forces estimated at approximately 65,000. One cannot be sure, as no official figures exist, so I would allow Mr Gilbert some leeway, but not quite up to 50 million.
Khalid Haneef (letter, 15 March) writes that David Ben Gurion wrote to his son: "We will expel the Arabs and take their place." But that quote is false. Here is what Ben Gurion wrote to his son in 1937: "We do not wish and we do not need to expel Arabs and take their place. All our aspiration is built on the assumption – proven by all our activity in the Land [of Israel] – that there is enough room in the country for ourselves and the Arabs."
Dr Jacob Amir
When in Rome, talk of England
Further to recent correspondence about the use of England to mean Britain as a slur on the other home nations in the Union, judging by the way that the words "England" and "Britain" are often interchanged without much distress here in Italy, it would seem that England's perfidious bid to erase their partners from the history of the United Kingdom might have deeper, more intractable roots to pull up.
For example, a recent article in a respectable Italian magazine on the Battle of Trafalgar talked about the "English fleet" repeatedly. Where's a good Scottish nationalist to turn on that one? On the other hand, a newspaper I read today had it that the botched rescue attempt of the hostages in Nigeria was the fault of "the English"... so perhaps it might sometimes be better to accept any gift that comes along, however misleading.
The High Court ruling about Josh, a young autistic man inappropriately restrained by policemen (report, 15 March) shows clearly the need to improve awareness of learning disabilities among the public – especially those delivering public services.
Our support staff who work with people with autism often experience situations where unusual behaviour is misunderstood. Whether it be outright bullying or minor insensitivity, discrimination begins with ignorance. We have recently delivered training for GPs to improve awareness of autism. Perhaps the police force should be next?
Chief Executive, Dimensions
Just average mathematics
Dave Hyden (letter, 16 March) implies that a claim that "one in five pupils" was achieving "below average" standard in English is mathematically nonsensical. It depends on which measure was being used to represent the average.
If the mean pupil achievement was the measure, then a figure of one in five below average is perfectly possible. In a cohort of, say, five pupils, who had scored 15, 55, 60, 65 and 70 per cent, the mean score would be 53 and one in five pupils would have failed to achieve it. If the median was being used then Mr Hyden could have a point.
Dr Alfred Venables
A new age
Every UK institution must be considering contingency plans for 2014 when Scottish citizens will take their leave of the Union; I would imagine that your sister paper, i, is contemplating such plans but perhaps it would be better to take a truly pro-active approach and change its title in advance of the referendum.
Sales of the paper would soar. My suggestion for the new title is Aye. It goes without saying that your own title is quite adequate as it stands.
Dunlop, East Ayrshire
Anyone reading An Architect in Islington by Harley Sherlock will realise that there is no reason to build "up" to increase housing density (letter, 16 March): the Georgian terrace pattern is equally dense and (to most of us) much more acceptable. And you get gardens with the houses.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
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