It comes as no surprise that the jobless total has risen to a 17-year high of 2.64 million (report, 15 December).
The more shocking aspect is that young people aged 16 to 24 made up nearly half that figure, at 1.027 million the highest number ever recorded.
The jobless figure is a direct consequence of the Coalition's slash-and-burn cuts policy within the public sector. While snobbish Old Etonian David Cameron and his patronising Chancellor George Osborne were doing their best Freddy Krueger impression and devastating the public sector with massive job cuts, we were assured by these two that the private sector would come in and replace the jobs they had cut.
Of course, a first-year economics student could see this claim was hogwash. Companies do not create jobs during a period of reduced consumer demand. This was another Tory lie to justify their ideological opposition to the public sector.
It was Cameron's heroine, Margaret Thatcher, who sent millions of highly skilled manufacturing jobs abroad in the 1980s, never to be seen again. Tory greed has left a whole generation of young people without hope, and they wonder why there are riots.
The report by the Institute for Public Policy Research confirms that women will continue to be disproportionately affected by high child-care costs and public-sector cuts if action isn't taken to reverse the trend.
The ever-increasing cost of living and changes to tax credits mean that for many mothers work simply does not pay, with some ending up worse off, forcing them to make the tough choice between their careers and staying at home.
As more and more women are forced out of the workplace, their position within the economy is becoming increasingly threatened and while we know that cuts need to be made to reduce the deficit, it is important that they do not come at the expense of decades of social progress.
Changes to the benefits system must take into account the increased reliance of women on the welfare benefits system and the disproportionate number of women among the working-age population not active in the labour market.
Any approach to encourage woman into employment must be supportive not punitive, and they must be made aware of what financial support they are entitled to.
Head of Policy and Research, Elizabeth Finn Care, London W6
The Government is proposing to give free child care for 15 hours a week, to enable mothers of young children to get back into work. Where are these jobs? Are there jobs that are exclusively for women? If so, then surely this is sex discrimination.
If not, why can't the unemployed men take them? The men could take full-time jobs, unlike the mothers who would get only three hours of child care a day. The Government could propose that the unemployed fathers stay home to look after the children.
English psyche long detached from Europe
It might seem that the English turned their backs on Europe last Friday, but in effect they did it almost 500 years ago when Henry VIII separated the English Church from the Europe-wide Catholic Church. From then on, the English would always look at Europe with a wary eye.
Having seen off the Armada and Napoleon, the English were free to exploit their island status to sail the world and build an empire; they were still ruling it when the foundations of what would become the EU were being laid.
The historical narrative of the English leaves them with a sense of detachment from Europe that is deeply etched into the national psyche. It is still very hard for them to settle for any status that does not leave them in control of all their own affairs.
Against this, I think it is easier to see why the events of last Friday were always going to happen. I am English, born and bred; I am proud to call myself European, but over the years my ideals have given way to realism, and I am now resigned to accepting that most of my fellow countrymen and women find deeper integration into Europe emotionally impossible and from their own perspective, rationally objectionable.
Those of us who hoped for a future for England in Europe may simply have to prepare for a future alone. As for Scotland and Wales, perhaps the time has come for these nations to think about what kind of political future they want.
Terence A Carr
The Prime Minister's decision to turn his back on the biggest market in the world has had support from the eurosceptic right wing of his party. But what about the views of business leaders?
The damage done to business, to the economy, to jobs and to living standards if we are on the outside will be huge, because EU rules will not consider British interests if we are not involved in the negotiations. Business leaders need to make clear whether they think the Prime Minister should try to rebuild relationships with other EU leaders before lasting damage is done.
David Cameron will ignore most views outside the Conservative Party but he might just listen to the business community.
Bill Esterson MP
(Lab; Sefton Central), House of Commons
Well done, David Cameron. You have ensured the other EU members have someone to blame if the euro project stutters and one or more states crash out of fiscal union.
In those states, each time the holidaymaker loses 5 per cent of his or her spending money crossing a border, or the small business finds its profits wiped out due to exchange rate fluctuations, they will think, "It's Britain's fault", even if a successful outcome from this summit was always unachievable.
It will not be forgiven or forgotten for a generation. Britain in the slow lane of Europe? More like on the hard shoulder.
Dr John W Bailey
Why all the angst about Britain being "isolated" in Europe? Would a sensible person give money to any business whose auditors had refused to sign off its accounts for 16 years because so much money was unaccounted for?
I wouldn't give a penny to such people but successive British governments have continued to pour billions of pounds of taxpayers' money into the EU, in return for precisely what?
One has to have sympathy with the Tory view that we mustn't give more legislative powers to Europe because they will have little understanding of the needs and desires of the British people. It would be in stark contrast to our present tried and tested common-touch legislature, ruled over by a Queen in a large palace, a Parliament made up of promoted peers and, of course, those men of the people, rich Toffs, for political leaders.
Bus firms rely on off-peak oldies
Michael Isserlis ("Don't drive oldies off the buses", 13 December) points out one social benefit of pensioners' free bus passes but there is another point he has omitted. Perhaps they should be seen as subsidising public transport. Without them, most off-peak services would be uneconomical and would have to be withdrawn. The knock-on effect would probably make many bus companies unviable.
There are several fairer ways the national insurance system could be improved. People who have reached state pension age and are still in employment should continue to pay contributions. And the upper limit on which contributions are paid should be abolished. This would affect only the highest earners and would not be perceived as unfair by most. Then the winter fuel payment could be treated as earned income for tax and national insurance purposes.
Martin D Stern
No music to my ears
I read with interest John Walsh's interview with James Daunt (5 December). James seems to be a intelligent and cultured man with worthy aspirations to improve the image of Waterstone's.
But it is a great pity that he didn't include silencing the distracting and inappropriate music introduced into some of his stores.
Here on the Isle of Man, where James's father served as a popular governor years ago, we are assailed by not only music, but also the noise from the in-house coffee shop. The staff and head office assure us this racket has been introduced "by popular demand"; I have yet to meet anyone who thinks it a good idea, let alone "demanded" it.
Some Waterstone's stores, like the excellent one in Salisbury, allow their customers to browse in peace, as indeed they can in Daunt's own bookshops.
Amazon may well be "a ruthless, money-making devil", but at least one can shop with Mozart playing gently in the background, if one chooses.
Douglas, Isle of Man
A tale of two justices
What sort of world do we live in where a teenage girl is sent to prison for taking two odd trainers and gloves, having voluntarily gone to the police, while Sir Fred Goodwin, whose behaviour cost us taxpayers billions, keeps his enormous pension and title? Does the deterrent effect of "not to encourage the others" work only on the poor?
Give, and taken
So David Cameron's contribution of £448m to councils to deal with 120,000 chaotic families is only 25 per cent of the likely costs (report, 15 December). The other 75 per cent must be found by councils already forced to impose massive cuts to services. It is like a garage offering one gallon of petrol to a car-owner with an empty tank as long as he can drive 75 miles to the pumps.
Locking, North Somerset
It is no surprise that so few young people have taken up sport in response to the "Olympic factor" (report, 9 December). Most would not dream of abandoning their mobile phones long enough to play a game of football or tennis, or run 100 metres.
Your report "New fears of sectarian strife after Kabul blast" (7 December) incorrectly suggested that Shia Muslims "celebrate" Ashura. As a Shia Muslim, I must point out that Ashura was the day that the Prophet Muhammad's (Peace be upon him) grandson and his family were slaughtered. The day may be commemorated, perhaps, but definitely not celebrated.
Corrections & clarifications
On Friday, we reported that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) had ruled that hearsay evidence could continue to be heard in British courts. The ECHR is an organ of the Council of Europe, not the EU as our headline suggested.Reuse content