Letters: 'Consensus' politics

Brown's 'consensus' politics leaves voters with no choice
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Sir: When Gordon Brown offers vague platitudes about "reconnecting to the people" I reach for the sickbag. His attempt to embrace everyone in the nation sounds dreadfully hollow and insincere when he simultaneously denies "the people" a referendum on the EU constitution. But his "politics of consensus" is also nothing but a cynical attempt to crush debate, silence the opposition and devalue the very notion of democracy.

Gordon Brown is not stupid. He knows his majority is small and could dwindle dangerously after another general election. With the Conservatives anxious to present themselves as a genuine centrist force in British politics, Brown's consensual style is all about neutering the opposition for as long as possible.

How sad then that the Tories have fallen into the Brownite trap. By promising to match the Government's spending plans for three years, George Osborne's party is maintaining the high-tax, high-welfare, big-state vision of Gordon Brown. By leaving voters with no choice on the economy, the parties will fuel voter apathy.

Jeremy Havardi

Watford, Hertfordshire

Sir: The PM wants "a new type of politics which embraces everyone in the nation". It's good to hear this change of direction from Mr Brown, whose party is in power with far fewer votes than the opposition, thanks to the current archaic unrepresentative voting system and from a person who has no mandate from the electorate or Parliament to be PM.

If Mr Brown really is sincere in what he says, then let him introduce proportional representation for national elections. After all it is good enough for his home country's parliament. Cherry picking a few opposition MPs as advisers hardly embraces everyone.

Michael Guttken

Tonbridge, Kent

Assault in Iraq ends in disgrace

Sir: Nothing exemplifies the moral cowardice of our establishment more then the shameful retreat of our hugely expensive tanks rattling down raw-sewage-lined Basran back streets at the dead of night.

Don't be fooled by Gordon Brown's talk of withdrawing troops; this is the man who uttered not a single word of opposition to this war. Coupled with the Damascene conversions of our generals who only now are voicing their long-held doubts about the post-war planning, this is enough to make your jaw drop in disbelief.

What started out as a thunderous assault (remember Shock and Awe?) on a defenceless nation, prostrate under a campaign of sanctions that targeted the population has ended in disgrace and ignominy. And what hope have the Iraqis got of getting justice for the gargantuan sufferings they have endured?

Alan Haynes

Gravesend, Kent

Sir: Menzies Campbell is probably too young (now there's a phrase you never expected to read) to have undergone compulsory military training, but, had he done so, he would have learnt in his basic training that you never disclose your intentions to the enemy. You keep them guessing.

You can be sure that in his statement to the Commons, the Prime Minister will not set a date for departure from Iraq, but will set a "timetable" by reference to vague waffle. It's the same principle which will leave Sir Menzies in the dark about the date of the autumn election (or not).

Anthony Bramley-Harker

Watford Hertfordshire

Sir: Britain has at last taken a sensible step by withdrawing her troops. If and when the ongoing US-Israel sabre-rattling culminates in overt action against Iran, Iranian military and revolutionary guards will be immediately westbound through Iraq to Israel.

Then what would be the US-Israeli response? They might use nuclear weapons. Had the British troops not been withdrawn from Basra, they surely would have been among the first casualties either by being trampled by the Iranians and their formidable Iraqi supporters or incinerated by the US-Israeli friendly (most possibly nuclear) fire. Just take a look at the map. Well done, UK!

Dr Alok K Bhattacharyya

London E7

Sir: By effectively abandoning control over the southern Iraqi ports to the Iranian- backed Badr brigades in the form of the Iraqi army, Brown has placed both the supply routes to US forces and security of the Basra oil installations at the mercy of Iran.

Despite the enormous sacrifices of the US troops in the north, Brown may have lost the war in Iraq simply to play to the polls, public cowardice and anti-US sentiment.

Maria Dami

Omagh, Co Tyrone

When rape is used as a weapon of war

Sir: I believe Dominic Lawson has missed one essential point in his article about Amnesty International (31 August). It is men's inhumanity to women that AI has had the courage to try and remedy. Would any father really expect his daughter to continue a pregnancy which was the result of rape? Would he condemn her to years of misery bringing up a child the sight of whom would only remind her of the trauma of being raped? The attitude of the Catholic Church is that she should not have an abortion even when rape is now regularly used as a form of warfare by the oppressor on the oppressed, men on women.

Mr Lawson refers to the terrible situation in India, where female foetuses are aborted when previously many girls were murdered at birth and apparently some still are. This is a longstanding social problem where ultrasound technology and abortion have replaced death at birth.

In the cases I have cited, and there are others, it is men denying women the right to take decisions over their lives which is the crime. I have taken out two subscriptions to Amnesty International, one in my own name and another to replace one lost because a Catholic has decided that he or she can no longer support the wonderful work done by Amnesty International. I invite others to do the same.

John Barham

London W1

Sir: I do think it's a pity that on the letters page of Saturday 1 September you chose to lead and headline three letters about Amnesty International's position on abortion with an irrational hard line. So far as I am aware, Amesty is not "promoting abortion as a human good" or "claiming the right to kill", but merely acknowledging that it is sometimes a horrible necessity. Children impregnated by a relative, women raped as an act of war, women whose pregnancy is certain to kill them (and the child) – have they no right to self-defence?

I am a practising and passionate Christian, and one thing I hear Christ saying all the time is that there are no hard-and-fast rules that can be applied at all times without thinking. I intend to rejoin Amnesty on the strength of it.

Marion Pitman


Sir: As bishops and cardinals line up to attack Amnesty International's position on abortion it might seem puzzling that no biblical passages are ever quoted in support of their condemnation. This reticence is understandable if you are familiar with the Bible's one clear statement on the issue; Exodus 21:22 clearly states that whilst causing the death of a pregnant woman is murder, the loss of an unborn child is a purely civil matter for which compensation should be paid to the woman's husband.

For many years, both the Catholic Church and the Evangelical movement have chosen to ignore this inconvenient biblical passage. They would rather attack vulnerable women with emotional rhetoric than consider the complexities of the abortion issue and the clear distinction the Bible draws between women and the unborn.

Chris Newell

Dorking, Surrey

Opencast coal can never be clean

Sir: Johann Hari's excellent article (3 September) succinctly outlines the dangers of clean coal technology.

A further problem with coal is that it is mostly mined by opencasting, which destroys the environment and releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Twice as much methane and carbon dioxide are emitted by opencast mining as by burning the extracted coal. Clean coal technology cannot reduce these emissions.

A core problem with coal appears to be vested interests, largely centring on "old labour" and old traditions. South Wales has several opencast sites of 1,000 acres or more, 100 metres deep, with over 50 million tons of spoil. There is little chance of restoring the environment on these sites while the owners are allowed to use the possibility of "clean coal technology" as an excuse to delay vacating the sites and fulfilling the terms of their planning consents.

Sue Jordan


Room for two states in Palestine

Sir: The Rev Duncan Macpherson writes that the "Jews have a right to a homeland in Israel-Palestine. The issue is whether they have the right to a state maintained at the expense of others." (Letters, 3 September).

But the Jews established their state in 1948, following the UN partition decision which called for the establishment of two independent states in Mandatory Palestine, one Arab and one Jewish. The Arabs rejected the UN plan and tried to prevent its implementation by launching a war of aggression against the Palestinian Jewish community. They lost the war and caused the refugee problem. Had they accepted the UN plan, their independent state would have been 59 years old today. Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people, exists at no expense of others.

Dr Jacob Amir


Hitler disowned in faith dispute

Sir: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (Opinion, 3 September), like many who attack atheism, has chosen to include Hitler among our number. Hitler was not an atheist.

Whilst Hitler despised Catholicism he described himself as a Christian many times – to the extent of promoting a perverted form of "Positive Christianity" more suited to the anti-Semitic barbarism of the Nazi ideology. The Nazi Party itself described itself as a Christian organisation that did not "tie itself . . . to any particular denomination".

While the point that there have been many bad atheists still stands, it's just not accurate to include Hitler among their number. That doesn't mean that the Holocaust was down to his Christianity any more than Stalin's pogroms and labour camps were down to his atheist predilections.

Jim Jepps


Sir: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown makes the classic mistake of assuming that because atheists such as myself question everything, we automatically have the answers. We do not, but neither do we fill every gap in our knowledge with fairy stories.

J B S Haldane said that "not only is the universe queerer than we suppose but queerer than we can suppose". It is open, objective science that will keep on examining such concepts, not the religious. They are content to merely shrug and say "God did it."

Emily Rose


Sir: Once again we see the deep gulf of misunderstanding between people who profess faith and those with none.

Does Yasmin Alibhai-Brown really think that people without faith don't experience love, empathy, the "agony and ecstasy of the heart"? Or if they do, as atheists that they must be in denial of the evidence of their own experience?

Why does she think these things cannot be examined by science? Why does she think that scientific curiosity is not creative? Cannot she see that these powerful experiences raise the question of why we should have the capacity for them? And even if the answer is ultimately that God made us that way, that still raises the question of how it came about. I presume she is not a creationist and so would accept that, God's will or otherwise, there is an evolutionary explanation. Cannot she see that exploring this question might extend and deepen the scope for wonder and astonishment – while also bestowing understanding?

Expressed in Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's terms, faith looks like wilful ignorance to me. But there needs to be understanding between her likes and mine because our differences will never be resolved by the demise of either view.

Bill Cross

Northallerton, North Yorkshire


Green rugby?

Sir: On this morning's back page (4 September) you have a picture of the English rugby team at Heathrow, about to fly to France. Has it never occurred to them that they could get there by train?

Nick Wray


Drop this sinister policy

Sir: If Gordon Brown is really girding up his sporran for a snap election, he can prevent thousands of voters from deserting him by scrapping identity cards. Let's face it: nobody votes for ID cards, but growing numbers are voting against. The Tories are bagging easy votes by their promise to save billions through scrapping ID cards and the sinister supporting database. Gordon should do likewise.

Barry Tigh

London E11

Cosmic joke

Sir: Gerard Gilbert thinks that " 'The biggest bangs since the Big Bang' may sound like a line out of Blackadder" (TV, 4 September). It may sound like it, but more appropriately for "The Cosmos: a Beginner's Guide", it's really a line out of Douglas Adams' The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

James Donnelly

St. Ives, Cambridgeshire

Revolutionary idea

Sir: Your excellent columnist Terence Blacker fulminates against the City fat cats (31 August). But if you object to the rewards earned by City fat cats why not also football fat cats, rock musicians or any other citizen whose skills earn them "67 times more than the average". "Egalité" was one of the battle cries of the French revolution, but within a decade the French invented the lycées and grandes écoles which were based entirely on inequality of talent.

Claus von Bulow

London SW7

Cheap shirts

Sir: We are advised that we can buy polo shirts for our children for school for £1 (Save and Spend, 1 September). Would The Independent also like to advise us where these shirts are made and how much those who make them are paid?

Margaret Adams

Keighley, West Yorkshire