Letters: Cameron’s religious crusade against the poor

These letters appear in the Friday 18th April edition of the Independent

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I find David Cameron’s attempt to claim religious authority for his hard-right agenda distasteful in the extreme (“We all benefit from living in a Christian country, says Cameron,”  17 April).

Many clerics of all faiths have denounced the deliberate destitution of the already poor by arbitrary withdrawal of benefits for weeks on end at the whim of overworked DWP clerks, because of draconian tightening of eligibility criteria by his government. Increasing numbers of poor people are facing eviction and homelessness because of his policies. The poor in our inner cities and buy-to-let slums are starting to starve, driven to food banks in despair.

The pious Mr Cameron feels no need to govern in the interest of areas like the de-industrialised North, the broken pit villages, the communities abandoned by global capitalism. He thinks the powerless and penniless should somehow make their own salvation, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and becoming entrepreneurs, handbag designers and hedge fund managers, with government intervention limited to threats of imprisonment and enforced poverty.

His concern is directed entirely towards the already well-off, motivating them to succeed by lowering taxes and relieving them of regulatory burdens, allowing them to shelter their wealth from the Revenue and pass it down the generations, entrenching the socially corrosive inequality that shames our nation.

The Prime Minister should govern for everyone, especially the poor and powerless. That is the mark of a real Christian. Co-opting the church to provide cover for class war is a despicable act, from which the truly religious would recoil in horror.

John Boulton, Edgware, Middlesex

The threefold increase in food handouts juxtaposed in your spread (16 April) with the 17 per cent increase in London house prices, both over the past year, comes in the wake of Chris Grayling’s decision that prisoners should be denied free access to books of their choice a couple of weeks ago, and the decision of Theresa May’s Home Office last week to deny Oliver Cameron the kidney of his non-British sister.

Together they tell us the meaning of David Cameron’s Big Society and the Tory slogan “We are all in it together”. No wonder so many Scots would prefer to live in a probably not poorer but undoubtedly fairer social democratic country.

David McDowall, Richmond, Surrey

So Cameron is now evangelical. Well, talking to the poor is certainly a lot cheaper than feeding them.

Martin London, Henllan, DenbighshireCardiff academics speak their mind

I was at the meeting of Cardiff University’s Court on 10 April (“Academics block Griff Rhys Jones as Chancellor”, 15 April), and no one at that meeting said anything critical about Mr Rhys Jones. No one expressed resentment at a senior academic being replaced by a comedian. The discussion, heated at times, was entirely concerned with the question of why our current Chancellor, Sir Martin Evans, had not been asked to continue. 

There is however another story. Academics at Cardiff University, in Senate, in the University’s Council and at Court, are much more willing than they used to be to put forward views, to challenge decisions, to hold the executive to account and to exercise what Rowan Williams characterised as “moral vigour” in debate. The days of “rubber stamping” are over, and this is surely a good thing. 

James Whitley, Professor of Mediterranean Archaeology, Cardiff University

School discipline needs legal backing

The cat has scratched through the bag and we know what we knew in our hearts of hearts: the biggest pressure on schools is the irksome pupil body (letter, 15 April). 

I would not like to return to the days when teachers could beat the living daylights out of you, but I think disciplinary procedures of a disagreeable sort should be agreed upon by headteachers and parents, and adhered to.

Detention after lunch, without appeal from parents. Community service, to be undertaken at school and at home. Expulsion. A parent may appeal but must go with  the decision of the headteacher.

The whole thing should be backed by a law in which undermining the school is a civil offence, pursuable at a small claims court, with criminal charges for those evading the sanctions awarded.

Spare the children and parents, and watch another unskilled, uncouth generation fall on to the street.

Cole Davis, London NW2

While I agree with some of what Rosie Millard had to say (16 April) about a 10-hour school day, I have to challenge her statement: “The classrooms are out of bounds and the teachers have all gone home.”

In my last five years of teaching in a large primary school I didn’t know any teacher who left school before 6pm. We could be seen leaving the building alongside the after-school-club staff as the caretaker came round jangling his keys to lock up the building.

Ann Bird, Sheffield

How to house MPs without scandal

With the clangs of yet another MP housing scam still ringing in our ears, let’s take a look at how a less dysfunctional country handles the issue of accommodating their MPs.

Just across the water is Denmark, pretty similar to the UK, or so you’d imagine. There are 179 MPs. The total budget for providing accommodation for them all is £541,700, plus a bunch of apartments provided by the state for MPs to live in, free of charge.

The apartments are an investment, owned by the good citizens of Denmark – who never stop complaining that the flats are far too luxurious. So absolutely no speculative shenanigans for Danish MPs. 

And still there seems to be no shortage of candidates coming forward for election. Could it really be that, in Denmark, people still want to represent their fellow citizens for reasons other than money?

Kirsten de Keyser, London N6

Dyslexic people really can do degrees

I appreciate that Matthew Norman’s column is written tongue-in-cheek, but must take issue with the assumptions about dyslexics revealed in his comments about MP Charlotte Leslie (14 April). Being dyslexic clearly makes reading and writing more or less challenging for the individual but it is in no way the insurmountable obstacle to academic achievement suggested. 

Many schools and universities spend a great deal of time, effort and money supporting students with learning disabilities, including dyslexia. With support they are perfectly capable of completing “literate” degrees and holding down careers entailing vast quantities of reading and writing. 

A dyslexic friend is a barrister, and having completed a degree at Oxford now enjoys practical and ongoing support from her chambers. My own dyslexic daughter is studying archaeology and anthropology at university. And, yes, she can spell the name of her chosen subject.

Please don’t make jibes about politicians at the expense of people who have made considerable efforts to get to grips with their learning disabilities and are not cowed by the challenges.

Kathy Moyse, Cobham, Surrey

‘Green’ gas is just a distraction

Vernon Yarker (Letters, 16 April) tries to justify shale gas as a bridging technology to genuinely low carbon or zero-carbon renewables. He is probably unaware that the gas industry has been using this argument for over 30 years, so it is high time that we reached the other side of the bridge. Fracking in the UK will simply divert money from renewables and result in another 30 years of “locked-in” fossil-fuel dependency. By that time, as the IPCC emphasises, we will be beyond the point of no return.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

Gay ‘catastrophe’ in Africa

The Archbishop of Canterbury is quoted as saying that gay marriage could be “catastrophic” for Christians in Africa. What is catastrophic in Africa is the power of Christianity, influential in the imprisonment, molestation and killing, even, of gays. Inevitably gay marriage must be against the teaching of a church which refuses, point blank, to learn.

Peter Forster, London N4

History of holes in the road

Andy McSmith (11 April) and C R Atkinson (15 April) raise the issue of potholes in our roads. They are well behind the curve. That acerbic social and political commentator John Lennon drew our attention to the problem back in 1967 when he sang of, “four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire”. Like the poor, potholes are always with us.

Nigel Scott, London N22

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