Letters: Bureaucrats take refuge in cyberspace

These letters appear in the Thursday 29th May edition of the Independent

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I object to the Government’s stealth approach in forcing all citizens to communicate online with government departments, such as those dealing with tax and pensions. This is a de facto disenfranchisement.

The claims of cost savings are spurious because a government employee has to deal with the matter however it is received, and the cost of doing so has been loaded on to the citizen, whereas previously it was met from general taxation. The Government is also complicit in allowing banks and utilities to force their customers to go online. 

Your article (27 May), regarding a report from the Policy Exchange think-tank, is extremely worrying. They are trying to justify this policy with a smokescreen of saving the over-65s from loneliness by giving them access to social websites.

I am not a Luddite, having been enthusiastically involved with computers for 35 years and online for 30 years, before the internet was available. I am fully aware of the benefits it can offer, and also the risks and the expense. The web has been deeply infiltrated by the criminal fraternity out to scam the unwary, and exposing the older generation to this danger is reckless.

This whole issue needs to be brought to the attention of the public in general and MPs in particular, so that we can make informed decisions about the appropriate use of technology. In the meantime, the written letter must remain the default method of communication, without prejudice or penalty.

Gavin O’Brien, Harrow, Middlesex

 

I couldn’t agree more with Robert Fisk’s article “Our addiction to the internet is as harmful as any drug” (26 May). When I look at other newspapers online, I am disgusted by the poison in some of the readers’ comments that bear no relationship to the article or are just venom directed at the writer. I no longer bother to look at them.

Fisk quotes a student asking for “good websites on the Middle East”. I keep on mentioning to students here in Oxford, look at the book, the journal. Browsing through a journal, one often finds something more important than going to the article online.

I use computers, but give me a book any time, or a journal. At least one doesn’t come across the sick people who feel the need to denigrate anything they can.

Theo Dunnet, Oxford

 

Why London shunned Ukip

Local government and European elections are seen as frivolous. People don’t see much need to vote at all and none to vote “responsibly”.

In urban areas, where there are lots of immigrants who obviously can’t be blamed for the problems they share with their indigenous neighbours, this takes the form of anti-racist protest voting. Here in our Labour-dominated London Borough of Hackney the Greens polled second highest. In suburban and rural areas where immigrants don’t feature, except as fantasy bogeymen, it takes the form of voting Ukip.

It is frivolous to base on these results projections about parliamentary elections that people take rather more seriously.

Mary Pimm , Nik Wood, London E9

 

It is claimed that London voters showed relatively little support for Ukip because they are better educated than the voters in areas where Ukip did well. The real reason Ukip did poorly in London is that, based on ethnic background and culture, London is already a foreign country.

It is only to be expected that almost all of the immigrants and descendants of recent immigrants that make up the majority of the population of London would shun a party whose principal appeal to the natives is based on anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Roger Chapman, Keighley, West Yorkshire

 

When will Nigel Farage announce what must be a key element of Ukip’s immigration policy: British footballers for British teams? After all, immigrants must be the largest proportion of those employed in the Premiership and probably have more adverse impact on employment of British workers than in any other employment sector.

Of course, being anti-Europe as well as anti-immigration, Ukip will have to remove British teams from the Champions and Europa Leagues. Then we will be back in the 1950s, where Ukip and its supporters want us to be.

Michael Serginson, Milton Keynes

 

The books Gove doesn’t like

There is an important debate to be had about the literature chosen by exam boards for our young people to study for examinations (“Gove attacked over loss of American GCSE books”, 26 May). However I suggest there is another more important debate.

It is: should a politician have any say in the content of syllabuses in our schools? Michael Gove is an intelligent and passionate man but does he lack wisdom? He dislikes some literature and believes his choices to be those that young people should study. What would Mr Gove’s response be were the next secretary of state for education to suggest that all students should study literature of an entirely different kind?

For most of the lifetime of compulsory schooling in the UK, politicians deliberately kept the curriculum at arm’s length. This only began to change in the 1980s. We need to be concerned about political ideology creeping into our schooling system. How long before there is political control of the science and history curricula, as in some states of the US and in Japan? 

Education and the school curriculum are far too important to be controlled by a powerful few.

Patrick Wood, Hong Kong

 

Having recently picked up this book and been transported by a tale which, despite taking place many decades ago, has captivated my inner bookworm, I feel somewhat angered by Michael Gove’s plans to get rid of To Kill a Mockingbird from the English GCSE syllabus.

If it wasn’t that To Kill a Mockingbird was written by an American – the critically acclaimed Alabamian Harper Lee – we wouldn’t be at risk of losing such a wonderful book which holds a deep meaning in my heart. Not only has the book opened our eyes to a time when racism was rife, but to read a tale from the eyes of a young child is endearing and is worthy of being taught at GCSE.

As said by one of the main characters in the book: “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” I deeply hope that Mr Gove realises the severity of his plans, which should never have been proposed at all.

Chloe Brewster (aged 15), Caythorpe, Lincolnshire

 

If John Steinbeck’s most famous book is to be removed from the school syllabus, perhaps it could be replaced by the much lesser-known book describing the activities of pottery makers in the Dresden area, Of Meissen Men?

Nick Pritchard, Southampton

 

No wonder girls are put off sport

It comes as no surprise to learn that 36 per cent of girls believe exercise is socially unacceptable, when papers such as your own consistently fail to report women’s sport.

Just last week at school we analysed media coverage of sport in one broadsheet newspaper and found that of 228 articles over nine days only four covered women’s sport. The BBC sport webpage revealed a similar lack of role models – just 4 per cent of articles over the same period related to women’s sport.

Might I suggest that an antidote to girls’ lack of enthusiasm for exercise would be greater media coverage and a longer day in state schools so that there is more time available for a range of different sports.

Jane Gandee, Headmistress, St Swithun’s School, Winchester

 

Clegg has done a great job

Thank you for your editorial about Nick Clegg (28 May). In the face of adversity I am becoming more passionately Liberal Democrat.

When extremism raises its ugly head – right-wing at the moment but left-wing can be nearly as bad – the ability to co-operate and compromise in the search for a middle way becomes ever more precious. The Deputy Prime Minister has done a great job and shown that some politicians can act in a mature way.

Ruth Skrine, Bath

 

Nice country, shame about the regime

I am sure that Tam Dalyell (24 May) is right about the beauty of Iran and the friendliness of its people, but I am not tempted to book a holiday there just yet.

It now has the world’s highest rate of executions (113 hangings in the last month) and the “moderate” President has appointed as his minister for justice someone responsible for the deaths of over 30,000 political dissidents.

Carolyn Beckingham, Lewes, East Sussex

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