Letters: Cameron is cowardly to duck debate

These letters appear in the 7 March edition of The Independent

The British public are famously tolerant of personal failings in their elected officials, but they will not tolerate a coward (front page, 6 March). The Prime Minister’s refusal to debate with Mr Miliband tells us most of what we need to know about Cameron.

His abject strategy is clear to all. He hopes a multi-party debate will dilute his exposure, and let him hide for 90 minutes: but what sort of prime minister is it who needs to hide from the people who installed him? What sort of man is this?

On principle, the broadcaster should stage this Conservative/Labour debate irrespective, represent the Prime Minister with an empty podium and give Mr Miliband the full 90 minutes to state his case.

Only with the threat of free publicity for Labour hanging over his party’s head can this meerkat be dragged from his hole to open ground and put under a blinding spotlight. No number of appeals to common decency will work.

Mike Galvin


Could someone remind David Cameron that he is just another politician hustling the public in an effort to keep his job? He is not some anointed emperor, deigning to appear before his people as a favour.

We all know that at this stage politicians of all shades strew promises about like confetti; I doubt even they expect us to believe them. So I would like to see a proper grown-up discussion as to how each party expects to manage the hung parliament that seems almost inevitable; and we can’t have that without a decent debate. 

So, ponder on the word hubris, Mr Cameron, climb down from your Olympian heights and do a bit of asking, nicely, if anyone wants you back.

MB Miller
Malvern, Worcestershire


I, as a person living in Wales, cannot see the point of listening to the policies of the DUP or SNP in a televised shouting match of unimportant soundbites. There are only five real parties with a UK-wide representation – Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Ukip and Green. Why not have them debate on UK-wide television and then have subsidiary debates in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland featuring the main parties plus the local national party? This would (hopefully) force the main parties to outline their intentions on governing for the smaller parts of the UK.

Peter Elkington


The next PM will either be Cameron or Miliband. I can read about the policies of all the parties – I don’t need to see how their leaders perform, as they won’t be prime minister.

I want to see the two candidates debate; I want to see how they perform; I want to see their leadership skills; and I want to see who I can trust.

Bob Hughes
Willoughby, Warwickshire


We are told as we approach the general election that only Cameron or Miliband can become PM. My god, how depressing is that. How can that remotely be described as democracy?

P Cresswell
Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh


In the recent past, when standing for public office, I have been challenged to debate, albeit it at a much more local level. Personally I like a bit of verbal parrying and relish the opportunity to put across my views and opinions. Perhaps I am rather naïve but I would never dream of dictating the conditions under which I would agree to such a challenge. I firmly believe that if you choose to put yourself in the political firing line then you should be prepared to be shot at, metaphorically speaking, and must therefore arm yourself sufficiently to take the flak that ensues. 

Linda Piggott-Vijeh
Combe St Nicholas,  Somerset


Delighted to hear that David Cameron and Ed Mlliband won’t be having a TV debate – that’s one less thing to remember not to watch in the run-up to the election.

Anthony Judge
Tonbridge, Kent


Surely the empty chair at the TV election debates should be filled with a large bowl of Eton Mess?

Norman Evans
East Horsley, Surrey


This is no solution to sex abuse crimes

Locking up social workers is a useful populist call ahead of the general election (report, 4 March). However, David Cameron doesn’t seem to understand the issues enough to give a more meaningful response to the Oxford report. 

The reality is that no social workers can make decisions in isolation, and there would be no conceivable reason why any of them would wish to do so. In a culture already dominated by risk aversion, social workers are inclined to pass all decisions up the management chain and are highly unlikely to take sole responsibility for overlooking clear cases of sexual exploitation.

Numerous professionals from other disciplines and multiple levels of line management are involved where failings have occurred, and the idea that the problem rests on the ineptitude of individual social workers is simplistic and insulting to the intelligence of anyone who works in the field.

Cameron’s comments might be politically expedient, but do nothing to address the issues he purports to be concerned about. He has exploited these crimes to appeal to the lowest common denominator and denigrate a profession that already struggles to retain its experienced staff. To this extent his comments are counter-productive as well as ill-conceived.

Jonny Ward


Both a kindle user, and a serious reader

I couldn’t disagree more with Fay Weldon’s assertion (report, 5 March) that authors should write two versions of a novel – one for (to paraphrase) serious readers and another for those who read electronically and therefore are only interested in “a page turner or light read ... compared to a 500-page, more complex literary novel”. What arrant, patronising piffle!

Aside from the sheer discomfort of reading a hefty tome (especially in bed), I frequently found it impossible to do so because of the tiny print. However, since discovering the – for me – sheer bliss of reading electronically, over four years ago my consumption of literature has increased enormously, in both volume and variety. I am never put off embarking on a 600-, 700- or even 800-page novel (among the most recent being War and Peace, The Goldfinch and The Luminaries).

All due respect to the acclaimed Ms Weldon, but to suggest that my preference for the portability and flexibility of my e-reader makes me a philistine is very insulting.

Gail Royce
Altrincham,  Cheshire


When bad kings are good kings

According to Thomas Macaulay in his excellent treatise, The History of England, King John, although a bad king, did this country an enormous favour. (“Historian: ‘Disney was right to show King John as a villain’ in Robin Hood”, 3 March.) Because he favoured his own people and treated both Normans and Saxons equally appallingly, he managed to forge a new national identity. No longer was England composed of Saxons under the heel of the Normans; they united against King John and attained a coherent identity.

Dr Peter Smith
Watton At Stone, Hertfordshire


Zero-hours jobs are nothing to celebrate

The emergence of large numbers of low and zero-hours contracts (report, 26 February) shows just how limited the published measures of employment in our economy are.

It is estimated that 1.8 million UK jobs are part-time or zero-hours, and, in spite of the limited recovery, this is increasing. A high percentage of those working on limited-hours contracts have expressed a wish to work more and many are actually undertaking regular overtime.

These contracts are so attractive to employers not because they deliver a degree of flexibility but because half of those in part-time employment earn so little that they or their employers do not have to pay National Insurance.

If this continues, it will deprive workers of access to maternity benefits and a full pension and the exchequer of possibly billions of desperately needed revenue.

Pete Rowberry
Saxmundham, Suffolk


Where non-residents pay their share

Rather than a mansion tax, which is impractical and politically divisive (“London at risk of missing out as super-rich multiply”, 6 March), why not impose higher rates on property owners who are not resident in the UK for tax purposes? This is what is done in North Carolina, where my family owns a holiday property. The extra tax is justified because out-of-state residents don’t otherwise contribute a fair share to basic infrastructure: roads, fire services, policing, etc. It has several other advantages, not least that it raises revenue from people who don’t vote in local elections.

Mary Uhl