A brilliant article by Paddy Ashdown (9 February), who rightly sees autonomy for south-eastern Ukraine as a key element in a ceasefire. The people in this region, more than half of whom are Russian, will never accept rule from Kiev again after the brutality of Ukrainian efforts to regain control.
What is needed is a ceasefire, supervised by an international force, followed by reconstruction and, after an interval of peace, an internationally supervised referendum on the region’s future.
Any recent visitor to Russia or follower of the Russian media will have experienced the extreme nationalist mood created by sanctions and the refusal to understand the justice of Russia’s position on both the Crimea and on the region of Ukraine known, since Potemkin drove out the Turks 250 years ago, as “new Russia”. There isn’t a shred of evidence that Russia poses any threat to the status quo, except in those places where there’s a Russian majority whose rights are being ignored.
Once peace has been restored there needs to be a recognition that Russia, if treated with respect, can play a key role in solving many major problems including Syria, Iran, Palestine and climate change. Paddy is right about the damage done by American triumphalism (and American management consultants) post-1991.
John Landell Mills
Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire
The process of demonising the “psychopathic” Putin is in full swing. Much like Saddam, except that Russia actually has weapons of mass destruction. This is all in aid of the West arming the Ukraine government, which will, of course, be countered by the Russians openly arming the east.
The reason for this act of stupidity is that we want all of Ukraine to become part of the western alliance, thus giving us a veto on Russia accessing its Crimean port. No Russian leader could possibly accept this.
Someone, other than me, should tell the Cold War warriors to pack it in before things get out of hand.
Mohamed cartoons are a test of freedom
The thousands of Muslims who went to Downing Street to protest over the cartoons of Mohamed suggest that they think satirising their religion is on a par with the senseless slaughter of the French cartoonists, and that the cartoons are an affront to the norms of civilised society (report, 9 February).
On the contrary, in this country, having the freedom to send up and ridicule religion is the definition of a free society. You only have to look at the countries which don’t allow this to see this is so. The protesters have missed the point.
Labour threat to rich people, not business
The furore over Labour’s so-called “anti-business” policies needs to be exposed for what it is: namely, vested interests looking out for the themselves.
Many of the cheerleaders being wheeled out to finger-wag at Labour for business-bashing are publicly supporters of the Conservatives. To claim that they are speaking on behalf of “business” is disingenuous. They are speaking on behalf of themselves – which would be fair enough if they owned up to it.
A hike in employers’ National Insurance contributions or an increase in corporation tax can legitimately be claimed to have adverse effects on businesses, but this is a political argument. However, the restoration of the 50p tax rate and the proposed mansion tax are taxes on people, not businesses.
Would we be hearing the same hot air if the proposal was to increase the basic rate of income tax by 2p in the pound I wonder? Would this be presented as anti-business? I suspect not.
It is perfectly fair for individuals affected by the mansion tax and the 50p tax rate to argue why it is wrong or unfair, but to veil their own vested interest under the cloak of “what is best for business” is an example of self interested electioneering.
Rose-tinted picture of schools in the past
I am afraid that the rosy picture of education in the 1940s painted by Dr David Moulson is not one I recognise (letter, 4 February).
I was born in the 1940s and I was acutely aware of the widely differing academic abilities and school achievements of my working-class peers. The great majority of these children went on to “fail” their 11-plus at 11 years old.
The reorganisations brought about by the 1944 Education Act were deemed necessary partly because of the low levels of literacy and numeracy of so many recruits into the armed forces during the First and Second World Wars.
People with starry-eyed visions of past education idylls should step into their local primary and secondary schools, where they would see that most of them (not all) are doing a superb job at preparing and educating today’s children for their lives in the 21st century.
Anybody can teach – even nuns
Cristina Odone on Question Time and others pillory Tristram Hunt for doubting the ability of nuns to teach. How foolish of him.
Anybody can teach, just as anybody could be a legal aid lawyer or a nurse or a cancer surgeon. You don’t need training for jobs like that.
Let’s save money and have nuns doing all that type of stuff.
Just have specialists trained for the things that really matter –tax avoidance accountancy, private equity, asset stripping, arms selling to Saudi Arabia.
As for the rest, let the Christians take over the asylum.
Disney embraces feminism? Not yet
Disney has triumphed and Jane Merrick (4 February) has been duped if she thinks that Frozen has anything to offer the next generation of feminists.
Elsa has powers that she can’t control or understand. Unlike the powers of Superman or Spiderman, hers don’t inspire admiration and aren’t used for the benefit of others or to help good triumph over evil, but are overwhelming for her and lead to her damaging her “kingdom” and being alienated and separated from society.
Elsa’s predicament will resonate with many young women, who feel they can’t identify what is wrong with them and feel isolated and marginalised from the mainstream.
The two size-zero sisters with their minuscule waists, pert breasts and unfeasibly large eyes conform miserably to tired images of what women should look like whatever their talents or character.
We don’t want our children to aspire to these Princesses who don’t even get to wear a pair of trousers in the freezing snow.
The hard rewrite
Your columnist Terence Blacker (9 February) has been misinformed when he asserts that a scene in my play The Hard Problem “had to be re-written no less than three times because preview audiences simply didn’t get it”.
In a Q-and-A with the director, Nick Hytner, I remarked that there was one sentence in my play which I had changed twice because it was too oblique as a feed for an event in the next scene, standard stuff in the life of a playwright in preview.
Hytner had seen it coming; I thought he was wrong but, I said, he turned out to be right and I “resented” this. We need a typeface for banter.
Tarrant Gunville, Dorset
The union is already dead
I take grave exception to the tone and content of your editorial of 2 February (“The party’s over”). To see The Independent used as some sort of unionist rag is contemptible.
You end the piece by encouraging the people of Scotland to smell the coffee. I suggest you do likewise! You are clearly struggling to keep up with the realities on the ground here north of the border.
The Union is already de facto dead. A bright new dawn awaits a soon to be liberated people. Liberated from the xenophobic, anti-European, little Englander mentality of the English. A proud nation will be finally able to forge its own destiny.
And all of this comes from a Dutchman who has lived in Scotland for 40 years.
Daffodils and raspberries
Further to your correspondence about daffodils and spring onions: I was assured at a farmers’ market by a big Perthshire soft fruit farmer that he had been asked by the chief buyer of a major supermarket chain “And what crop are we looking at here?” while standing overlooking a field of raspberry canes.
What hope can there be for the staff when senior management are so ignorant?