Letters: Doubts over Europe after the Tory revolt

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The European Court of Justice's recent pronouncement on stem cell research made me wonder anew at the wisdom of ever joining the EU. The morality of the research may be debatable, but it could provide relief to victims of debilitating diseases, as well as employment and an enriched skills base.

It is another example of control over our destiny as a nation being removed, adding to the loss of vision and hope. Look at the youth unemployment figures, and, for a real nightmare, look at those of Spain.

The revolt in the Commons by Conservative MPs suggests I am not alone. Cogent arguments for a referendum were advanced, not simply the rants of "Eurosceptics".

As in medical research, so in agriculture, fisheries, immigration, health and safety, legal matters and finance, whether we like it or not we are dragged into the morass of collective decision-making (or lack of it). This is not the "Common Market" that we elected to join, but a political miasma, a limboland somewhere between a trading club and full statehood without the clear mandate of either.

It is time we took steps to reassert ourselves as a nation, and if we simply wait for David Cameron's "repatriation" of marginal powers in some unspecified future it will be too late.

Ian Bartlett

East Molesey, Surrey

I really don't understand why some Tories dread losing our independence to the EU so much that they'll tear their party apart over it, while many (often the same) Tories will happily form an "Atlantic bridge" so that America can walk over us via their supine bodies.

Sara Neill

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

If the Tory Eurosceptic rebels are serious people and not just political poseurs, they would form a new party. As things stand, anyone thinking of voting Conservative can't be sure of what they are voting for on the crucial issue of EU membership.

Professor David Head

Navenby, Lincolnshire

There is a very simple reason why we should retain our EU membership: we are Europeans.

This was brought home to me long ago when I worked in the USA for five years. I found I had far more in common with colleagues from other European counties than with the Americans.

There was also no mention of any "special relationship" between Britain and the US. When Americans said they were coming to Europe, for business or pleasure, they treated Britain as just another European country.

Mike Armstrong

Chartham Hatch, Kent

In all the rush by a very small proportion of our population to request a referendum on our membership of the EU, I wonder how many are aware of the large sums of money which have come from the European Union into this country to aid development in underdeveloped areas such as the North-east. There is a noticeable lack of publicity on the positive aspects of our membership.

Dorothy Brown

London NW11

No one younger than 817 has had a chance to express an opinion on Magna Carta.

Robert Davies

London SE3

It's only a global climate disaster

It's only a small thing, but have Dominic Lawson ("Why won't Huhne celebrate out gas windfall?", 25 October) and the rest of our leaders forgotten the potentially catastrophic consequences of global warming?

The science revealing the influence we are having on the climate is not going away; it is being reinforced. If we do not find ways to mitigate our impacts, we could be dooming future generations to poverty, hunger, extreme weather and mass migrations. Is that all OK?

The more we invest in sustainability the more it will become affordable. We must prise ourselves away from Mr Lawson's destructive way of thinking and take the lead to a sustainable future.

Andy Jones


Digital future

Jonathan Allen (letter, 22 October) and his neighbours in Great Missenden are not alone in being unable to get, a Freeview signal. In parts of the country where TV switchover has yet to take place, up to a third of households are unable to get a reliable digital terrestrial signal. The good news is that following switchover, which takes place in the London TV region in April 2012, signal strength and coverage will get a major boost, providing virtually all households with access to digital TV via an aerial.

Deborah Bain

Assistant Regional Manager, London, Digital UK, London W1

Real kindness

I am glad Terence Blacker ("Cruel jokes are just a symptom", 21 October) highlighted the dichotomy of our society being outwardly kinder and empathetic, while tolerating varying degrees of heartlessness in the entertainment world – and other places. A good antidote is not to watch or listen to this supposed entertainment, but an even better one is to observe the kind behaviour of countless "unknown" people as they go about their daily lives.

Ann Peterken

Twickenham, Middlesex

Food for riot

With the revelation that over two-fifths of the young people caught rioting were receiving free school meals, when can we expect the inquiry into what they were being fed? And is Jamie Oliver implicated?

Robert McSweeney


'Decaying town' fights back

Dominic Prince describes Margate as a decaying, uninspiring town ("Coastal erosion", 10 October). The town is going through an extensive regeneration programme, spearheaded by the arrival of the Turner Contemporary gallery, which exceeded its annual visitor forecast within the first three months of opening.

Another major component of Margate's regeneration is the revival of Dreamland – a multi-million pound investment funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Department for Culture Media and Sport and Thanet District Council. Dreamland will be the world's first amusement park of historic rides, entertainment, cafés, restaurants and gardens.

It is not, as you reported, a derelict shopping arcade which Tesco is trying to move into. It is a heritage site with three listed structures; the scenic railway, menagerie cages and cinema. Urgent work is under way to preserve the cinema building – the money has not "run out".

There is no quick fix to the seaside towns abandoned by the British holidaymaker for overseas package deals. Regeneration takes time – we are not there yet, but we are already seeing visitors returning, new audiences arriving and inward investment.

Jan Leandro

Audience Development Officer The Dreamland Trust Margate, Kent

Of course we've "heard of first impressions" and we're fully aware of the impact that the tower block by the station has. Perhaps a bit of research would have shown Dominic Prince that there's an application in from Tesco for this site, not Dreamland, which includes improvements to the appearance of that tower block.

It's encouraging to see that we can at least agree on one thing: that small independent shops are key to regeneration. Thirty-five new businesses have opened up in the town in the last 18 months alone, figures that will no doubt be the envy of many other high streets.

It's easy to claim out-of-town shopping is the cause of Margate's problems, but without the introduction of our new town centre at Westwood we would've seen major high-street names quitting the area altogether. We chose to retain them and that's provided 3,000 jobs in an area with high unemployment.

Cllr Bob Bayford

Leader, Thanet District Council

Margate, Kent

Gaddafi got the death he deserved

I am concerned by the rumblings of discontent over the manner of Gadaffi's death. Have we forgotten Christmas Day 1989 when the Romanian dictator Ceausescu was summarily executed by his own people without a word of protest from the outside world?

Both men lived by the sword and died accordingly, and nothing so became them in life as the leaving of it. Can we now allow the Libyans to get on with the new reality facing them?

Ian Kavanagh


The "brutal dictator", as David Cameron described him, has gone to meet his Maker, but like Saddam Hussein before him, he leaves behind an oil-rich country broken and prostrate for our oil corporations and their hired guns to plunder for the benefit of our pension funds.

The Libyan people, again like the Iraqis, will now be at one another's throats, leaving the field clear for the US Africa Command to get a foothold for its HQ and get down to the serious business of countering Chinese inroads in Africa.

Gaddafi's end is a boost for al-Qa'ida in the Maghreb and we all in the West must understand that Libya is just across from Italy.

M A Qavi

London SE3

Comprehensive schools do work

Following the excellent article by Owen Jones (13 October), several correspondents have written to extol the virtues of private schools and grammar schools.

Both involve the selection of children, usually at the age of 11, a process that also necessitates rejection. The 11-plus examination rejected, on average, four out of every five. Your correspondents do not offer any suggestions as to how this rejected group should be educated.

I was in teaching for 36 years, serving as deputy head of an inner-city school, head of a secondary modern school and finally head of a large comprehensive school. During those years, I witnessed the disappointment, sometimes trauma, of both children and parents when they were notified that they had failed the 11-plus.

The comprehensive school of which I was head always secured places at Oxbridge and other universities while, under the same roof, we catered for children of lesser ability.

If a comprehensive school is organised appropriately it will be successful. The task would be even easier if the parents who give so much support to a selected few offered similar support to their neighbourhood school, the school that caters for all and rejects none.

George Nicholls

Wilmslow, Cheshire

On the topic of schools and class (letters, 15 October), a school is far more than a place of education.

The quality of a school sets the quality of the neighbourhood it serves. A poor school impoverishes and stratifies the community as the middle classes move away to find a good school, leaving the poorer families without the means to do the same.

This deprives the community of those with the time and capacity to contribute to voluntary and civic life, and further David Cameron's ambition for a "Big Society". The strongest communities are mixed communities and the most important factor in creating a mixed community is a good local secondary school.

Judy Vero

Atherstone, Warwickshire

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