Letters: Class hatred and ‘Mail’ row

These letters are published in the print edition of The Independent, 5 October, 2013

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If nothing else the Daily Mail’s criticism of David Miliband’s father has reminded us, if we needed reminding, that the class war is alive and kicking in Britain.

At the Conservative Party conference the 50,000 people demonstrating outside against the Tory political agenda were summarily dismissed as “the enemy”. Margaret Thatcher described the miners as “the enemy within”. So much for our much-vaunted “democracy”. 

In France, in the Seventies, when De Gaulle and Sartre were at loggerheads and held diametrically opposing views, at least De Gaulle could say: “Sartre, c’est aussi la France.” Compare this with the mean-spirited, hate-ridden stance of our government and its supporters.

John Tilbury, Deal, Kent


In protest at the Daily Mail’s “all time low” in accusing a dead man of hating Britain, Malcolm Howard (letter, 3 October) urges a boycott of Waitrose while they continue giving it away free through their “My Waitrose” card.

Surely it is wrong for supermarkets to give away any newspaper titles whatsoever on a selective basis. This draws them into the political arena and interferes with the fair marketing of news and views. Waitrose also holds two Royal Warrants which I am sure it would not wish to lose by inadvertently associating the Royal Family with political controversies launched in the newspapers it promotes.

Carolyn Lincoln, Edinburgh


I can’t help feeling that there is a whiff of xenophobia coming from the Mail.

A former Lord Rothermere, owner of the paper, thought that Moseley’s crew were a jolly good thing. Perhaps today’s Daily Mail is affected by the views of its spiritual ancestor (the Mail seems to think that this is how it works) and Ed Miliband, as the son of an immigrant, is therefore persona non grata – ostensibly for not agreeing with the upright and laudable standards of such a revered and respectable publication as the Daily Mail. Who do they think they are kidding?

Angela Peyton, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk


It is thanks to the Daily Mail that I can now truly appreciate the personality and achievements of Ralph Miliband, and the moral and intellectual force that he represented for friends, students and family; an unintended, but not unusual consequence of any Mail attack on a public (or private) individual about whom I may have previously felt some ignorance or ambivalence.

Christopher Dawes, London W11Young want work not dole

David Cameron’s idea of a new “earning or learning” policy would deny young people under 25 the right to claim benefits. His depiction of unemployed youth as people who opt for a life on benefits is an outrageous offence to many who – not only in the UK but all over Europe – are suffering from the impact of the economic crisis, struggling to find a job, and not “opting” for their situation at all.OECD statistics show that, since 2007, the youth unemployment rate in the UK has risen from 14.3 per cent to 21.3 per cent in the second quarter of 2013. Do we have to assume that, since then, young people have become significantly lazier? If so, why wasn’t that the case in Austria, Norway, Switzerland or Germany, where youth unemployed rates remained mainly unchanged or even went down?

Youth unemployment rates have risen because the British government has failed to implement measures to tackle the effects of the economic crisis, not because young people have simply decided to live an easy life on benefits – which, in fact, does not exist. If David Cameron had to live on benefits for a few months he would realise that this is something hardly anyone would ever choose.

Fiona Costello, Federation Of Young European Greens, Brussels


The Prime Minister’s instinct that young people should be earning or learning is the right one, and the majority of young people want this too, but this as yet unclear proposal cannot come at the expense of taking the roof from over a young person’s head.

The thousands of vulnerable young people and families which our organisations support are often in a position where benefits, at first, are the only way they can survive, and offer a safety net at a critical time. They often do not have families they can move back in with, and more than half of housing benefit claimants under 25 have families of their own. Withdrawing benefits because they currently can’t engage in training or can’t find a job would leave many homeless again and even further from the labour market.

In addition, around 66,000 young people under 25 who claim housing benefit are working, but on low wages, and without housing benefit could well be forced to leave their job and home.

Yes, we need to get the benefits bill under control. And yes, we need to get young people into work. But penalising young people for the failures of the economy is no way to go about it.

Seyi Obakin

Chief Executive, Centrepoint

Jeremy Todd

Chief Executive, Family Lives

Rick Henderson

Chief Executive, Homeless Link

Jean Templeton

Chief Executive, St Basil’s

London E1

Don’t blame social workers, back them

The recent cases involving the death of vulnerable children highlighted the catalogue of errors and failure, by different agencies, to communicate with each other. However, over the past 20 years various inquiries have pointed to other reasons for systemic failure, including: the massive caseloads that social workers have to manage; high turnover of staff; the use of short-term agency staff; lack of experienced staff; low morale and a high proportion of newly qualified social workers who are not given guidance about how to prioritise cases.

There are also wider questions about the rates of pay for frontline staff and high levels of stress that have led to a nationwide shortage of social workers. Sensational press reporting has led to a “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” culture. Social workers are inhibited from challenging decisions, even if they fervently believe it is in the child’s best interests.

Against all the odds, social workers safeguard the vast majority of vulnerable children. They have to make difficult decisions in complex cases where parents may be manipulative, obstructive or aggressive. Let’s all give them a round of applause? Without giving them adequate resources and lower caseloads, particularly in child protection, this is just patronising nonsense.

Richard Knights, Liverpool

If you’ve never heard of Hoagy . . .

In a story about James Bond being played by Daniel Day-Lewis (26 September) you report: “Ian Fleming ... describes his character in three novels as looking like Hoagy Carmichael, a singer-songwriter who was famous at the time of the Second World War.”

This is a bit like saying Robert Burns was a ploughman-poet famous at the time of the Jacobite uprising.

Hoagy Carmichael was indeed famous at the time of the Second World War. But he was also famous 10 years before it began, when Louis Armstrong recorded his “Rockin’ Chair”, the same year Carmichael wrote “Georgia on My Mind”. And he was still famous 200 songs later, when in 1971 he was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in New York at the same time as Duke Ellington. He was still famous in 1979 when the jazz elite of the day packed Carnegie Hall in New York for a concert to honour his 80th birthday and Mayor Ed Koch proclaimed 27 June Hoagy Carmichael Day. The previous year Willie Nelson’s new recordings of “Star Dust” and “Georgia on My Mind” were in the American charts.

Indeed, Carmichael was still famous when he was buried in January 1982 and President Reagan was among those who sent flowers; and in 2002 when his biography, Stardust Melody, was published.

And he’s still famous in 2013 because the world still sings and plays his songs as they have done since the 1920s (see Nora Jones’s new album, The Nearness of You)...

Jim Crumley, Stirling

Schools: look at what works

I do agree largely with your leading article of 4 October, but doesn’t the success of the assisted places scheme for motivated working class pupils just serve to raise the grammar school option again? And what are free schools and academies but poor substitutes for the tripartite educational system? You are right, it’s well past time to forget the self-defeating ideology and look at what works.

Anyone who has taught in a comp will know just how impossible it is to go against the dominating ethos that often exists there among pupils. Forget about all the “excellence for all” nonsense: motivated kids know when they are beaten.

Are we happy to allow political squeamishness over the 11-plus exam to paralyse our educational thinking forever? 

Martin Murray, London SW2

War on drugs has been lost

The argument for the decriminalisation of currently illegal drugs and the control of their distribution (letter, 1 October) is to remove the drug dealers from the equation and so protect the next generation from being drawn in to addiction.

To dismiss the argument for decriminalisation as wishy-washy liberalism flies in the face of the hard economic facts that the “war on drugs” has been lost and it costs less to provide drugs in a controlled outlet than to deal with the devastation caused by pushers and dealers.

Patrick Cleary, Honiton,  Devon

Climate challenge

So climate change is happening, and it is, at least in part, humankind’s doing.

All we need to do is reduce the human population and accept the unpalatable fact that environment-damaging economic growth cannot continue indefinitely.

No problem then.

Susan Alexander, Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire

Just tedious

Has anyone noticed the similarity between tweeting and The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith? Both describe the tedium of everyday life, but at least the latter is amusing rather than tedious.

Raj Kothari, Bridport,  Dorset