Disabled people and their families lack the support they need
Sir: I have been watching the recent Wragg case with both interest and many tears. As a mother of a severely autistic 19-year-old son, I feel I can fully appreciate the pressures the family were under, and whilst I have never considered killing my much-loved son, I have often contemplated on the purpose of his life for him.
I do hope that people who wish to criticise Mr Wragg will stop for a moment to consider that almost certainly his motives were not selfish ones - to give himself relief from his son - but were the most basic of all parental motives: to protect his son from any more pain or hurt.
We have had to fight every inch of the way to obtain the most appropriate education for our son. We have minimal input from social services as we are not a family at risk (how they judge that I'm not sure as they have so little contact with us) and at present we have no social worker as there are so many unallocated clients. Friends are supportive, but at the end of the day the disabled person is not their problem.
With a disabled son (whom politicians would like us to call differently abled!) life is hard and isolating, and the fear for your young person's future is all-encompassing. I am at the state where I hate travelling anywhere in case I have a fatal accident and our son has no one to fight for him.This cannot be right in a so-called caring society.
Government needs to ensure that there are enough resources to support all families and individuals affected by disability of any sort. The Government have a valuing people policy to make the lives of disabled people equal in quality to everyone else's. Unfortunately, this is planned to be "cost neutral". How about that for a contradiction in terms?
Personal acts that help the planet
Sir: John Rentoul is right in two respects about political posturing ("Our green lobby prefers selfish gestures and cheap posturing over political engagement", 13 December). Yes, some gestures are little more than juvenile attention-seeking and, yes, some green activists are little more than reactionary Tory nimbyists.
But he fails to recognise the link between personal action and progressive social change - between the costly personal commitment of a Rosa Parkes sitting in the wrong place on a segregated bus and the movement that helped transform the United States.
When in July I launched my 25/5 campaign to get MPs to commit themselves to a personal reduction in their carbon emission by 2010, I never believed it would save the planet. But I do recognise that many people are weary of spinning politicians, and are only likely to respond to calls for radical worldwide action if their representatives are prepared to make changes themselves. In that sense politicians are just catching up with millions around the world who are already living in a way that helps sustain our planet.
This is not to resort to "easy options" on energy use and conservation. It is saying I am serious about this - the personal is the political - and I want my party and my country's media to start honestly grappling with the complex and urgent issues to which our children demand we find answers.
COLIN CHALLEN MP
(MORLEY, ROTHWELL AND MIDDLETON, LAB), CHAIR, ALL-PARTY PARLIAMENTARY GROUP ON CLIMATE CHANGE, HOUSE OF COMMONS
Sir: John Rentoul is so sound on the green lobby's gesture politics that one is almost reluctant to cavil. Still, is he quite right to say that "a politics of personal responsibility" is redundant when it comes to gas-guzzling? If each gramme of carbon contributes to - say - the drowning of a person in Bangladesh, then each of us must accept there is a high moral cost for each car journey or plane ride?
I don't accept the science of the above proposition, but those that do are surely bound by its ethical consequence. Humbugs beware.
RICHARD D NORTH
MEDIA FELLOW, INSTITUTE OF ECONOMIC AFFAIRS, LONDON, SW1
Sir: James Lovelock's theory, that life on Earth optimises and controls our environment, is admirable ("The green man", 3 December). For me, it supports commitment to renewable energy. So how can Lovelock support nuclear power? Quoting from his writing, he sees "human inability to live in harmony with the Earth comes from our ignorance ..[of Gaia]". The solution lies in "what people do ... to reach symbiosis and homeostasis" with each other and the planet.
This means having our own lives and industry within ongoing natural processes. Renewable energy comes from energy already flowing in the natural environment; we use this, then put it back to continue its way to the stars. We add no pollution and we release no extra carbon; we participate in a planetary process. For me, a wind turbine is an ecological hand of human life. Like all hands, it should be efficient and not ecologically disruptive, but nevertheless part of our symbiotic life within nature.
Considering all renewable resources, modern technology allows humans sufficient for a sustainable economy, which we must keep intelligently in homeostasis with a healthy planet. Going nuclear separates us from every other form of life and encourages a parasitic human lifestyle; the very danger that Lovelock warns against.
PROFESSOR JOHN TWIDELL
VISITING PROFESSOR IN RENEWABLE ENERGY, READING UNIVERSITY
Human rights are for Iraqis too
Sir: There were a few inconvenient facts missing from your latest offering on Iraq (13 December). According to the latest opinion poll, commissioned by the BBC, most Iraqis (71 per cent) feel their lives have improved since the war began and a healthy majority are optimistic about the future.
Admittedly, around 15 per cent say foreign forces should leave now, but many more believe they should stay until a proper Iraqi government is up and running. Even though many felt "humiliated" by the invasion of their country, a majority still believe it was right.
We are fortunate to live in a country where (despite the latest unsavoury developments) we can march under banners on the high street and speak our minds. Those who did this in opposition to the war, if they had had their way, would have denied Iraqis the same privileges. Some say means other than direct action should have been used to end Saddam's reign, but he was not the sort of bloke who would have given up his power on the strength of a show of hands in the students union.
Everyone wants peace, not just well-meaning, well-educated "activists". But peace doesn't just mean the absence of armed conflict. It means living life without fearing the knock on the door or, for that matter, being "ethnically cleansed".
As a member of Amnesty International, I am relieved that Saddam is in the dock and his sons are not waiting to take over the family business. I wish someone other than the Americans had taken on the job, but on balance, and in memory of all the former tyrant's victims, I am glad somebody brought him to book.
I know it won't happen for decades, but don't we want all the peoples of the world to enjoy the sort of human rights that we enjoy here? The life of a westerner is no more important than that of any other human being.
Sir: Missing from your otherwise excellent survey of the effects of the Iraq war was any measure of its impact on our country.
Perhaps Tony Blair could tell us what benefits Britain has obtained from joining the Iraq war and occupation. We could then judge whether these offset the casualties sustained by our troops, the financial cost, the increased threat of terrorism to the British people, at home and overseas, the destruction of civil liberties and the collapse of trust in our government.
Cameron's descent from a royal family
Sir: Thank you for slotting into place the David Cameron royal connection ("Revealed: how Cameron is related to the Queen", 5 December) through his relationship to William Henry, Duke of Clarence RN, third son of George III, and his mistress Dora Bland, also known as Mrs Dorothy Jordan, or the Duchess of Drury Lane (1761-1816). They met in 1791: William took her to Bushy House near Hampton Court from 1797 until 1811, when he found a new mistress. Together cosily they begot the FitzClarence family, a dozen in all including the parents. Reaching 50, "she parted like an angel, with perfect dignity".
Dora was the undisputed comic star of Sheridan's Drury Lane for quarter of a century. John Hoppner painted her as Viola in Twelfth Night.
Came the death of his brother George, William needed a queen. It was then that Sir Francis Chantrey created a statue of Dora with two of her FitzClarences: in conscience and pride the new King intended it for Westminster Abbey, but never claimed it. At his death in 1837, it was still in Chantry's studio. Perhaps the King was too poor; for he had a frugal "half-Coronation"in 1834.
Nevertheless the boys were ennobled, and the girls made fine marriages. Elizabeth married the 18th Earl of Erroll (she is the path to David Cameron). Alas the eldest boy shot himself in 1842; and in 1826 the eldest girl took her own life in New York. The childless Queen Adelaide died in 1849; she had affectionately mothered Dora's children.
A J STACPOOLE, OSB
AMPLEFORTH ABBEY, YORK
Oil blaze highlights nuclear danger
Sir: No doubt many assurances were given that the Hemel Hempstead oil depot fire had a very small chance of happening. The fire has clear implications for any proposed building of new nuclear power stations, where similar assurances are thrown around like confetti.
Whether it was an accident or terrorism (most likely the former, it seems), can we afford the small probability that a nuclear power station could suffer the same fate? Instead of carbon particles, there would be the infinitely worse prospect of radioactive particles contaminating the air we breathe and the food we grow over a wide area of the country for years to come.
'Crime' of honouring our war dead
Sir: As an ex-soldier I was incensed by Michael Foster MP's argument that the arrest of Maya Evans under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act is for our protection (letter, 12 December).
Why should political protests be more of a cover for terrorist attacks on the Houses of Parliament than the tourists or commuters who were the most recent cover for terrorism?
Miss Evans' criminal act was to read the names of our war dead at the Cenotaph, our national war memorial. The Royal British Legion's exhortation is a promise to remember those who have given their lives for their country. How can someone reading out the names of our war dead ever be a criminal offence?
If remembering our dead has become a crime, then it can only be because Mr Foster and his government have a guilty conscience about their deaths.
MAJOR FRANK BALDWIN
ROYAL BRITISH LEGION VOLUNTEER LONDON NW1
Why social mobility has declined
Sir: Johann Hari (Opinion, 8 December) refers to the fact that "during the 18 years of Tory rule, social mobility collapsed", and states that during the period "the chances of a smart-but-poor child rising to the top virtually disappeared".
Hari seems happy to blame Tory tax cuts. He forgets that throughout the 18 years of Tory rule, the vast majority of "smart-but-poor" school leavers had not had the benefit of attending the state grammar schools that were available to previous generations, thus condemning them to a second- class education in comparison to their rich, privately educated, counterparts. Might this not be a more important factor in the decline of social mobility?
Racism in Australia
Sir: "I don't believe Australia is racist," says John Howard ("Simmering racial tensions revealed by Sydney riots", 13 December). This from a head of government that concocted stories of asylum-seekers in boats throwing their babies overboard. Having been to Australia twice and worked in Sydney, I'd say they're at least 50 per cent racist - as is Britain.
DENABY, SOUTH YORKSHIRE
Old school ties
Sir: One can only applaud David Cameron for seeking to ensure that the next batch of Conservative MPs more adequately reflects the composition of society than hitherto. Perhaps he could at the same time ensure, on a similar principle, that candidates reflect the state/private school composition of society. At present some 59 per cent of Conservative MPs have been educated in the private sector. The initial composition of the Shadow Cabinet fills me with great hope that such a change will occur in time for the next election.
Sir: So Jack Straw has found no evidence of the Americans asking for British permission to land their rendition planes. When it came to explaining the purpose of these CIA flights, did he really expect them to tick the box that said "So as to remove abducted citizens to secret European military bases where they may be tortured"? How absurd does it get?
Sir: I am amazed that your green guru ("I'm dreaming of a green Christmas", 12 December) advocates installation of a water filter to purify a product that is already pure. I don't know about the King's Road but in Yorkshire 99.97 per cent of water samples in 2004 complied with some of the most stringent health related standards in the world. If your guru has spare cash, may I suggest that her environmental credentials would best be served by making a donation to Wateraid for Christmas.
Sir: John Cliff (letter, 12 December) asks what happened to all the stories about the drunken yobs swarming through the streets thanks to the new licensing laws. They were on the same page that listed the thousands who died from the bird flu.