Letters: Christmas spirit of gross indulgence

These letters appear in the December 22 edition of The Independent

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Your report “Two nations” (20 December) contrasts the gross indulgence of many Christmas shoppers on “Panic Saturday” with the fact that millions of Britons will be facing Christmas in poverty.

On a recent pre-Christmas visit to one of London’s top stores, we were astonished to see a child’s toy car on sale for £30,000, (of course it was gold-plated). What sort of person can spend that sort of money on a child’s toy when there is so much need in the world?

Mike Stroud


Christmas this year comes in the wake of the launch by the Archbishop of Canterbury of the report about the scandal of hunger and food poverty in Britain, while trillions of pounds drift tax-free into overseas accounts.

The birth of a healthy boy to a healthy mother is to be celebrated. The mother was expected by a tyrannical regime to walk the 80 miles in the last weeks of her pregnancy from Nazareth to be registered in Bethlehem. Nazareth is located between the Mediterranean and the freshwater Sea of Galilee. Plenty of affordable oily fish, jaffa oranges, green vegetables, sheep and goats to provide excellent nutrition before conception and during her pregnancy.

Many mothers in Britain today cannot afford a healthy diet at the same time as utilities, council tax and transport on £57.35 a week (aged 18 to 25) and £72.40 a week (aged 25 or over). Since 1979 successive governments have allowed the value of adult unemployment benefits to crash, leading to poor maternal nutrition and a greater risk of low  birth weight and poor mental and physical health for the lifetime of their babies. Three days’ food from a food bank will not cover a nine-month pregnancy.

Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
London N17


Your front-page “Two nations” report repeated the claim that 13 million Britons now live in “poverty”.

In Britain, you are said to be in “poverty” if you are on 60 per cent of the median income. As the median UK household income is currently about £23,000, you are in “poverty” if you’re on less than £14,000 a year. And all sorts of absurdities follow from this definition.

What would happen to “poverty” if we could somehow double every income or if all the world’s billionaires were to suddenly relocate to Britain? How could such “poverty” ever be eradicated? Must every income be identical? This ludicrous definition appeals to people who think serious problems will disappear if we just take huge sums of money from one group and hand them to another.

Keith Gilmour


At last, a sensible US policy on Cuba

During the Cuban missile crisis, in 1962, I and 15,000 other Americans were 25 miles off the Cuban coast in very large landing ships loaded with big guns and tanks and amazing air power waiting to invade the island. As in any army that trains for years to do just that, we were all eager to do our job. Thankfully, it did not happen.

Since that time, we have allowed 20-plus electoral votes in south Florida to prevent a peace process. Cuban expatriates have kept our policy in limbo until now. 

President Obama in his last two years is accomplishing good things for America. After more than 50 years of having the wrong policy, our President has established diplomatic relations with a country  90 miles away that poses  no threat to us and hasn’t for decades.

I can’t wait to see Cuba without landing on a beach as a target. Good work,  Mr President.  

Norm Stewart
Aventura, Florida, USA


Listening to Putin accuse the West of trying to “defang the Russian bear” (19 December), one couldn’t help but think that any man prepared to employ that metaphor in the year 2014 does indeed require muzzling.

As the economy crashes around his ears and Russia heads toward deep recession, the solution to his problems do not lie in grandiose conspiracy theories or fomenting mass paranoia. The cheap tactic of counter-blame will fail him as surely as it failed Castro, and sooner. He goes on to accuse the west of plotting to seize large tracts of Siberia’s natural resources. How is such a thing even geographically possible? Does Putin imagine it would be done by stealth?

Cuba has shown the good sense to consign the past to history and make the present a priority. How much more pining for the Soviet dark ages will it take before this guy figures out that it all ended in 1988?

Mike Galvin
Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire


Any relaxation in America’s aggressive and bullying stance against Cuba is welcome. However if Barack Obama wishes his initiative to be taken seriously then he must quit the US’s occupation of Guantanamo Bay, which is sovereign Cuban territory.

Roger Earp
Bexhill, East Sussex


Oxygen of publicity for Nigel Farage

Recent letters have expressed concern that The Independent has given Ukip rather more exposure than its poll ratings warrant, publishing Nigel Farage’s weekly column while not giving the same exposure to the Green Party, which enjoys a similar poll rating. Today’s Independent (13 December) seems to bear out this concern with coverage of Ukip-related items spreading over two pages.

The thing that makes The Independent such an attractive quality newspaper is it’s non-partisan approach to politics, as reflected in its name. I realise that Ukip represents a greater threat to the political status quo than the Green Party in the forthcoming general election, but by giving them so much exposure you risk compromising your reputation for impartiality.

Patrick Cleary
Honiton, Devon


In response to John Blenkinsopp’s comments (letter, 17 December) I, too, was more than surprised that The Independent gave space to a party which makes me, for the first time in my life, seriously afraid for the political future of the UK.

My solution has been never to have read the column. But it coincides very much with my thoughts related to the National Front in France. One way to deal with them is to give them enough rope, which should ensure that they hang themselves with it.

Terence Hollingworth
Blagnac, France


I was dumbfounded to see Channel 4 giving half an hour’s puff to Nigel Farage (“Steph and Dom meet Nigel Farage”). Shall we now see David Cameron on The X Factor or Ed Miliband on Strictly? Politics as entertainment?

Betty Rider
Lewes, East Sussex


Senior moment of catastrophe

Your article of 15 December on the most popular nomenclature for the growing population of  over-85s fills me with dismay. In a few months I shall have the questionable honour of joining this cohort, and would feel like an object of ridicule if referred to as a “real senior”, as if not to be confused with an unreal one.

In the sincere hope of averting the catastrophe of this abomination’s acquiring currency, I suggest the following alternatives: golden oldies; super wrinklies; late developers or honourable lifers.

Ben Marshall
London N11


Those who reach the age of 85 should be known as “super seniors”.

Peter Fryer


Horror movie for children

Jeremy Redman (Letters, 19 December) thinks those of us who saw Bambi as small children but yet have matured into happy adults were not traumatised by this film. I most certainly was. I was extremely distressed, so much so that I have been careful never to see it again. And, now aged 70, I still would not.

It was truly terrible and I feel upset merely thinking about it.

Sara Neill
Tunbridge Wells, Kent


Who pays for the City watchdog?

Julia Holley (letters, 15 December) is not only spot on about struggling public servants getting no freebies, but the Financial Conduct Authority, which Janet Street-Porter (13 December) chose as her illustrative example, are not even public servants.

They are a very affluent body funded by fee-paying members of the finance industry and they are outside the public sector pay freeze or indeed any HM Treasury pay remit authority.

Neil March
London SE13


Brand at the barricades

I found Joseph Kynaston Reeves’s letter petty, individualistic and selfish (“Russell Brand and an RBS banker: whose side are you on?”, 18 December). It sums up the insular, self-centred, conservative mentality that makes this world the cesspit it is. I stand with Russell Brand. He wants change for the better. He’s on the right side of the barricades.

Sasha Simic
London N16