Letters: Criticising the monarchy

Republicans won't win the argument with insults
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The Independent Online

Johann Hari can be a persuasive writer, but he loses me when he ditches rational argument for abuse, as he did on 25 September. He thinks the late Queen Mother a cruel, cold, ruthless, bigoted, anti-Semite, Nazi-sympathising, drunken snob. The rest of the Royal Family are dismissed as cold, talentless, warped, dim, snobs.

If there is a debate to be had, republicans won't win it by being as insulting as some monarchists are sycophantic.

W J Casey

London NW7

Although I was vaguely aware that William Shawcross had written an authorised biography of the Queen Mother, it was only after reading Johann Hari's critique that my interest was sufficiently aroused to order the book. I am looking forward to a fascinating read.

David Burton

Wellington, Telford

If I were called upon to construct a constitution from the ground up I probably wouldn't take the idea of a constitutional monarchy as a starting point. Such things are accidents of history.

But we aren't starting with a clean sheet of paper, and so before consigning Windsor & Co to the dustbin we should bear in mind that systems involving a president as a chief executive would turn the head of state into just another politician, and that systems that involve having a retired politician or other dignitary as ceremonial head of state are not immune from controversy either, as the Austrians well know from the Kurt Waldheim episode.

Tim Davidge

Godalming, Surrey

Call me cynical, but I guess Johann Hari can kiss goodbye to that knighthood.

Chris Evans

London SE1

Who creates the nation's wealth?

David Staveley is right to claim that "our society and culture need to find a way by which genuine wealth-creators are rewarded" (letter, 25 September). But who are the "genuine wealth creators"? For years, we have been told that it is business tycoons and financiers who "create wealth", and who thus deserve to be paid huge salaries and bonuses.

Yet I have always believed that it is ordinary front-line workers, on the factory, shop or office floor who actually do the work which ultimately creates the wealth, and provides the investors with a financial return. How would a company make any profit without such staff to make things or sell them to their customers?

So given that each side plays a vital role, but needs the other for the business to flourish, why are those at the top often paid up to 100 times more than those who actually, physically, do the day-to-day work?

Pete Dorey

Reader in British Politics

Cardiff University

There is much to agree with in Adrian Hamilton's description of what has gone wrong ("How did we ever think greed was good?", 24 September) But he, like too many pundits, pleads guilty on behalf of the rest of us for being complicit.

He asks: "When exactly did we – for, let's face it, we were nearly all complicit in the process – move from being a country that lauded excess to one which now lambasts the drive for personal gain behind it?"

It may help assuage any feelings of complicity he and his friends may have if he spreads blame so widely, and hence thinly, but he does not speak for me, nor I suspect "nearly all of us".

"How did we ever think greed was good?" We didn't. Leave the blame where it belongs.

Eddie Dougall

Walsham le Willows, Suffolk

It was refreshing in your reporting of the demise of MG Rover (12 September) that you did not refer to the money the "Phoenix Four" paid themselves as "earnings".

This was in contrast to the terminology used for bankers, whose outrageous pay is often referred to as "earnings". The latter term should be reserved for money which is truly earned, not merely received.

Susan Wood


Surely no bonuses should be given until the banks have repaid their debts to the public. That might make them hurry up.

P D Hooper

Chale, Isle of Wight

Obama 'snubs' the British lap-dog

How many times does Obama have to snub Brown before he gets the message?

The US President wasn't in any hurry to make a face-to-face contact after the US elections, and being pestered by Downing Street for a prestige meeting (as against a chat when scurrying through kitchens) probably isn't restoring the Prime Minister's lost confidence.

Obama's message to Brown is clear and welcome: Britain, you're on your own. Don't crawl, don't boot-lick the President, because when you become the lap-dog you get led into terrible blunders, like Iraq. And both you and your nation lose your pride.

In other words: UK, grow up. Be independent.

Tim Symonds

Burwash, East Sussex

If Gordon Brown thinks that he has been snubbed by Barack Obama, he should try flying on a scheduled flight to the USA.

He would lose all fantasies that the British still have a "special relationship" with the Americans. Routine humiliation is normal when passing through immigration.

Gordon Smith


Real refugee crisis is still to come

One could not agree more with your editorial commentary that "Europe needs to face up to the migration challenge" (23 September).

The decision by the French government to demolish the "Jungle" camp at Calais throws yet another powerful spot-light on the Nato-led war in Afghanistan and the so-called out-of-area operations in Africa. Scores of British troops have died and many more will die in Afghanistan in order to promote democracy, human rights and education for women, and get rid of the Taliban as well as the narcotic drugs that fund their genocidal war. Yet Afghans would rather stay at the Jungle camp than in their own country.

Only the previous day you reported that the Nato Commander General Stanley McChrystal had given a warning that "the tide in favour of the Taliban could not be reversed without strategic changes".

The General should have added that if the mission fails, as seems likely, the Taliban would retake the country, sending millions of refugees fleeing towards Europe, especially the UK.

Sam Akaki

Director, Democratic Institutions for Poverty Reduction in Africa, London W3

Yet another state intrusion

Terence Blacker's article on paranoia (16 September) puts me in mind of an even greater intrusion of the state into people's lives. This is the Government's proposals for regulating home schooling. These represent a considerable extension of the state's powers.

Currently, parents are responsible in law for the education of their children. Under the new proposals, parents will have to ask for permission to educate their children, will have to follow a set curriculum and will be subject to inspection, and the children will be interviewed alone to check up on progress. The reason for this is that there may be a small amount of abuse by parents or some ineffective education.

Not only that, but an estimated 80,000 children are involved, all of whom will need to be inspected by the local councils. Most of these will be caring and responsible parents but, in the nature of these things (checklists and the like) a good proportion of them will be identified (in error) as causing concern. Goodness knows what unnecessary expense for the parents (and the council) and worry that will entail. I believe these proposals have the makings of a social disaster unless they are reconsidered.

Michael McGuffie

Wellington, Somerset

Punishment with no due process

Matthew Norman lists some of the less attractive traits of our government("The perfect New Labour scandal", 24 September). It seems impossible to raise public awareness of the deep damage done to our civil liberties by these people.

This government has invented the concept of a "civil offence". Apparently this allows transgressions to be punished by a "fine" imposed without due process by a variety of non-judicial bodies ranging from the "regulators" to Civilian Enforcement Officers.

Lady Scotland's actions should have involved a court hearing and a finding or a plea of guilty. If there is a law it should be enforced with due process. If the law cannot be enforced by due process, then perhaps it lacks the popular support necessary for the rule of law to prevail in a liberal democracy.

This Government has shown complacency and arrogance in its efforts to control the little people; but no opposition party seems concerned to put these wrongs right.

John Henderson


Forbidden to give a child a lift

I am a male hockey player in my mid-fifties. A while ago I was asked if I would mind regularly giving a lift to a 14-year-old to our matches. As I had to drive right past his house anyway I was happy to do so.

If it was now, I would have to pay a fee, roughly equal to my annual hockey club subscription, for the privilege. As I do not know the lad or his family, I would politely decline. Of course I would still be allowed to go stark naked into the communal showers with him after the game.

Graham Griggs

Leigh on Sea, Southend

Laurie van Someren (letter, 22 September) is quite wrong that a "Vetting and Accepting Service" would be better than the Vetting and Barring Service. Vetting and accepting implies that a person must prove they have done nothing wrong to be accepted, while vetting and barring means that if a person has done something wrong they will be barred. Given that the former is equivalent to being guilty until proven innocent, vetting and barring is more in line with natural justice.

Thomas Wiggins

Wokingham, Berkshire

When Prince William visits one of his charities to hug a kiddie, does he pay the £64 registration fee, or is he a volunteer who gets it free?

David Picksley

South Croydon, Surrey


Stephen Pimenoff (letter, 25 September) suggests that Tony Blair converted to Roman Catholicism because he realised the depth of his sins. Seeing his continued role in public life and pursuit of the future office of President of the EU, I gauge there is little evidence he has even started to realise the extent of his wrong-doings.

Derek Brundish

Horsham, West Sussex

Strange allies

Alex Macfie (letter, 24 September) points out that the German FDP "belongs to the same pan-EU political group as the UK Liberal Democrats". However, in the same issue of The Independent, Mary Dejevsky's feature on the German election notes that Ms Merkel "has made no secret of her strong preference for joining up with the FDP, whose flagship policies are business-friendly tax cuts and an end to the phasing out of nuclear power". Perhaps the Lib Dems can be compared with the British Conservatives in their apparently strange choice of European Parliament partners.

Bob Gledhill


Defence cuts

P Ingham (letters, 25 September) suggests a public subscription for armour for our soldiers, to shame the Government into supplying it. It would be cheaper (albeit more difficult) just to shame the Government into refraining from getting embroiled in irresponsible military adventures, thus ensuring that the soldiers don't need armour in the first place.

John Shepherd

Cockermouth, Cumbria

Recipe for confusion

I am becoming increasingly confused by The Independent. One minute you are expressing concerns about environmental damage and then on 24 September you print a recipe for "roast pumpkin and asparagus lasagne". While this sounds appetising, it would be difficult to find a dish with two ingredients so seasonally different. Where does the asparagus come from at this time of year, Peru?

Nigel Wardle

Stapleton, Leicestershire

Nuclear umbrella

World leaders who are working to reduce nuclear arms must remember that we need to keep a few of those warheads in stock just in case we have adequate advance warning of an errant asteroid, or some of those pesky aliens arrive and turn out not to be friendly. I haven't funded Hollywood for all these years to see that happen.

Charles Oglethorpe

Woking, Surrey