David Cameron has failed to even attempt to make the case for an in/out referendum on Europe. What he has done is to conflate the reasonable proposal that Europe should reform itself into a two-tier structure, with separate regulations for those inside and outside the eurozone, with a sop to Eurosceptics who demand a referendum whatever happens.
If the negotiations he plans were to have a satisfactory outcome, what would be the justification in holding a referendum? Surely it is only if there is no change and we are all to be led on a relentless path to greater integration that there is any need to ask the question.
As for these negotiations, they are of concern to a number of nations other than our own, and a joint approach with our non-eurozone neighbours is the obvious means to achieve progress. Seeking to portray this debate as Britain against the rest of Europe may go down well within the Tory party, but is likely to make it harder to accomplish anything positive.
Dr Dominic Horne
All that David Cameron has succeeded in doing is to turn a crisis over the survival of the Tory Party into a crisis for the British economy. He is under the delusion that over the next five years international companies will continue to invest in a group of offshore European islands when they can do so with more long-term commercial certainty inside an continually developing EU.
He fails to understand that other European nations are genuinely ambivalent about British membership of the club. If he wants to watch the game, rather than be part of it, they are content to leave him on the sidelines waving his arms and stamping his feet to keep warm.
The British public are obsessed by membership of the European Union. This is according to David Cameron, and his Tory Eurosceptics.
Yes! In factories, offices and cafés the length and breadth of the country, the daily focus is repatriation of powers from Brussels, and now the impending in/out referendum sometime in 2017! What a load of piffle. Working people are too busy suffering under Tory austerity, and trying to maintain a budget that makes life bearable. They talk about sport, cars, food and holidays; anything but Europe.
No, it's Tory sovereignty lost to Brussels that frightens the privileged, while all working folks within the 27-country membership just try to get by.
Laurent Fabius, French foreign minister, said: "If you join a [football] club, you can't say you want to play rugby." Well, what happens when you join a football club and the club starts playing snakes and ladders?
Cameron gave some grave warnings to the British people and to Europe about the effects of a "Brexit", and while we can't expect any common sense from the French, given their liking for posture politics, the rest of the EU nations may have the sense to engage.
Cameron is right about competitiveness, Cameron is right about leaders being answerable to their parliaments, and he is right about the diversity of the nation states. Let's hope we have a democratic, outward- and forward-looking community of nations when this is done.
How sad it is to see our Prime Minister kow-towing to the "Wogs begin at Calais" element of his party. Oh for a Prime Minister who is also a statesman.
Hospitals can be good for old people
The British Geriatrics Society (BGS) takes issue with Sir David Nicholson's view that hospitals are "very bad places" to care for frail older people. Though recent reports, such as the Ombudsman's, show that poor-quality care is a problem, there are many examples of high-quality hospital services.
Frail older people often have complex conditions with multiple morbidities, which require all the skills of the multidisciplinary team, and a well-resourced hospital is frequently the safest and most efficient way of ensuring that patients improve and can be maintained in their own homes after discharge. The Cochrane review of specialist care for older people demonstrates that they are 25 per cent more likely to be at home and alive if treated in a unit specialising in older people's care.
The BGS has over 2,500 members specialising in the medical care of older people, and supports all initiatives that enable treatment closer to a person's home. The constant ill-informed refrain that old people should be denied hospital care because "it's bad for them" is wrong and unhelpful.
Department of Health (England) funded research has shown that care lacking dignity and skill was associated with hospital staff perceiving that older patients "should not be there". Research has shown that the majority of hospital admissions of older people are appropriate.
General hospitals should, and will, continue to play a major role in healthcare for older people. The trick is to ensure that staff are trained, culture oriented and systems of healthcare prepared for an increasingly ageing population.
Professor Paul Knight
President, British Geriatrics Society, London EC1
In her letter about older patients and hospital treatment (23 January), Dr Linda Patterson thrice talks about "delivering" care, as if it were some sort of package to be handed down from on high.
Perhaps if people stopped "delivering" care – or anything else, for that matter – and started providing it instead, something worthwhile would be achieved.
How disabled are demonised
Philip Hensher asks, quite reasonably, why there has been a huge increase in the number of people claiming disability benefits. ("You can disagree – but don't wish me dead", 24 January). As a mother of a child on disability living allowance (DLA), perhaps I can enlighten him.
My father was disabled. He had worked in factories for many years. When he lost his final job in the 1970s his doctor told him not to accept any job which might be offered him because it would be potentially fatal. My father only learnt years later that he was entitled to invalidity benefit. My brother's girlfriend (a civil servant) had been moved to what was then the DHSS and was keen to pass the information on.
Medical science has advanced in recent years. Once upon a time a lot of premature babies died and many women died in childbirth. Nearly 17 years ago my son and I both survived. More survivors mean more claimants.
The fraud figures for DLA are one half of one per cent. If gay people were demonised in the way that the disabled community has been, on the basis that one half of one per cent of the gay community had not behaved ethically, would Mr Hensher not feel aggrieved if a newspaper columnist had written an article suggesting that it was high time society re-evaluated how it treated gay people?
The cost of bus passes
Bus passes do not cost nothing (letter, 21 January). Every time I use mine my local authority pays the bus company their excessive fare. That is why the bus companies support bus passes. The obvious answer to that is to revert to local authority ownership of local buses.
To go further, and make no charge for local bus use would bring huge advantages. Out-of-town users would leave their cars at the "park-and-ride" to get to work, in-town residents would leave them in their garages and catch the bus. City congestion would disappear, the air would be sweeter and we might get decent modern buses rather than the clapped-out bone-shakers that some private bus companies run into the ground to their profit and our discomfort.
But, so long as the mantra "public sector bad, private sector good", currently purveyed by the posh-boy Coalition, holds good, we have no hope of common sense prevailing over dogma.
W B McBride
The roots of jihadism
It is indeed the case that violent jihadism is in large part the fault of the CIA (letters, 23 January). The massive funding that went into the Cold War operation in Afghanistan bore fruit across the world, as the international brigade of jihadists funded and trained by the Americans and the Saudis, and facilitated by General Zia and the Pakistani ISI, dispersed to virtually every corner of the Muslim world.
However, Stephen Breuer is right to point out that the vast majority of its victims are Muslims rather than "westerners".
Stephen Breuer wants an explanation of why so many people in the Muslim world hate each other. He will find the answer in the reasons for conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, persecution of the Huguenots, pogroms and the Jews, going right back to the Crusades. Sectarianism has always been used by one group to gain an advantage over another. Invasions by foreigners and "infidels" create the conditions when different groups compete to exploit religious feelings for their own ends.
Sir Alan West criticises Army cuts by saying: "If you wish to intervene then you must adequately fund the military to be able to do it." (Report, 23 January). But I don't want us to keep meddling in the affairs of other nations, and would rather see money spent on helping our own vulnerable people, whose lot is being made worse by government cuts.
It seems a shame, having just celebrated an Olympic year, not to mention Michael Winner's 1970 film The Games (Obituary, 22 January). Starring Michael Crawford and Ryan O'Neal as marathon runners training for the Rome Olympics, it is a real curio and a better yardstick of his talent than the Death Wish sequels.
St Erth, Cornwall
He is possibly a good man, certainly a brave one. But given the education he has received, why, whenever he opens his mouth in his un-royal, garbled, monotone estuary English, does Prince Harry epitomise the descent into the mediocrity of language... and stuff?