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Wednesday 23 August 2006
Letters: Education, not immigration
How come Poles are more acceptable than Romanians?
Sir: Bruce Anderson rightly argues for improved education rather than immigration to avert social disharmony (Opinion, 21 August). If anything education has regressed. At least, 50 years ago we had vocational education and training in engineering, and the like. No more.
Education is focused even more on academic learning today. Small wonder that the "underclass", as Anderson calls them, are excluded. What have Sharon and Tracy been given that they can offer the world? Let's stop trying to produce academically qualified people who have no interest in academic learning. Let's teach them plumbing, plastering, house painting, bar-tending, waiting and the other jobs now enjoyed here by 600,000 Poles. These days people who are successful in many of these jobs can, and do, earn every bit as much as many in the top sector of pay league published on Monday. And a lot more than "better qualified" people in, say public relations, with their degree in media studies and average salaries of £26,160.
As for the possible arrival of even greater numbers of Romanians and Bulgars, who will stop them? Bruce Anderson says that we can now discuss such things "without the charge of racism". So, how come Poles are more acceptable that Romanians? Immigration has always brought some dreadful problems as well as benefits.
Sir: According to Colin Yeo of the Immigration Advisory Service, speaking to BBC radio on Tuesday morning, such low-paid jobs as sandwich-making "really are absolutely essential to the economy". So now we know why the green space around us has to disappear under housing, why we will face starvation if ever we can't import food, and why our country will no longer be our own. It is because we couldn't possibly make our own sandwiches.
HARROGATE, NORTH YORKSHIRE
Sir: One of the few words of English spoken by a Polish painter recently employed by us was "cowboy" - used to describe the shoddy workmanship of previous (English) workmen.
DR JONATHAN CULLIS
COOMBE BISSETT, WILTSHIRE
Airport vigilance at the price of dignity
Sir: As a British Muslim MEP of Pakistani origin, I clock up vast amounts of air miles with my weekly journeys between my North-west constituency and the European Parliament's bases in Strasbourg and Brussels. Regularly it is I who am stopped and searched, while my paler parliamentary colleagues walk straight through security. I have even been asked if I was seeking asylum, when a passport inspector failed to inspect my documentation and only the colour of my skin.
I switch between English, Urdu and Punjabi when squeezing in constituency calls while waiting in the departure lounge; and funnily enough I regularly glance at my watch to ensure my flight is on schedule. I have yet to endure the humiliation of being pulled from a plane, but I wonder, with all the current scaremongering by the Labour government, whether that will be the same when I return to work next week. Will my fellow passengers ignore the number of times my bags will have been checked, the metal detectors I have walked through, the frequent flyer loyalty card and the MEP badge, and just see an "Asian" man and label me guilty until proven innocent? Will the colour of my skin cause delay to my flight, disrupt British Airways' schedule for the rest of the day and see myself and colleagues late for important meetings?
The huge burden of anti-terrorist checks is already causing chaos in UK airports. Of course we must be vigilant, but not at the expense of common sense and decency.
SAJJAD KARIM MEP
(LIB DEM, NORTH-WEST OF ENGLAND) EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, BRUSSELS
Sir: As a frequent flyer between Spain and England I was outraged by the eviction of two British Asian men from a Monarch flight from Malaga to Manchester. On arrival at Malaga airport on Monday whilst filing an official complaint I learnt of several inaccuracies in your article (21 August) from airport information and Monarch representatives, all of whom condemned what had taken place.
The men were not escorted from the plane by Spanish police, or held for questioning for several hours. The police actually supported them, filed an official complaint themselves and made it available to the two men. The captain of the flight and ground crew were extremely apologetic but were ordered by Monarch head office in the UK to remove the men from the plane, who were then put up in a local hotel.
Like the Spanish ground staff I am appalled that none of the several hundred passengers, stood up in support of the men, and that those complaining were allowed to travel despite holding up the flight for three hours. Staff said the complaining parents used their "crying and distressed children" to undermine efforts to calm the situation.
Isn't this the Government's proposed "passenger profiling" - "whites only" flights and a conspiracy of silence while the lynch mob rules?
Sir: The world is not a nice place and these days political correctness gets one killed. Bravo to those citizens who took a stand. They are as courageous as those brave travellers on flight 93 whose courage perhaps save either our White House or Congress. If our governments or the airline industry will not keep us safe, then we must take these things into our hands. Vigilantism is not nice: neither is dying on an exploded aircraft.
SEMINOLE, FLORIDA, USA
Sir: So passengers on a Monarch flight didn't like the look of two "Muslim" passengers and they were removed from the plane. Monarch Airlines supports this kind of behaviour then. They should have left the complainants behind. This is a very worrying precedent. We are a multicultural society. We should not be led by bigots.
Sir: Let's hope that the companies responsible for removing young Asians from aircraft can and will be immediately prosecuted for racial discrimination. The medium- and long-term safety of our country depends on a clear and robust message that this panic response to terrorist threats is totally unacceptable.
Sir: Would I now be within my rights to force a family of loud, drunken, white English thugs off a plane if I thought their behaviour might endanger the plane?
Britain's damaging international role
Sir: Brian Hughes's basic premise (letter, 19 August) is of course correct: what Britain has to say on international topics is not of great interest to others - per se. Unfortunately, however, that is not the end of the matter. Britain has an enormous influence in the EU and international bodies, far beyond its batting power.
First, the British remain superb administrators. Thus, they are extremely effective in international and EU meetings.
Secondly, they possess and routinely exercise a truly impressive power to block progress by simply refusing to agree with majority opinions - for example, weakening recent EU attempts to hasten a ceasefire in Lebanon.
Thirdly, and by far most important, is the English language, which allows Britain's influence to extend far beyond the actual content of what it has to say. In my own field of environmental law, I have attended EU meetings, working groups and international conferences in which the British position has often been poorly informed or industry-determined. Nonetheless, non-English speakers come away impressed, not because the arguments being advanced are scientifically valid - the UK record on blocking environmental action on political grounds in the face of compelling scientific evidence is in fact appalling - but because they are so well expressed.
Mr Hughes has failed to understand the power which the UK wields in the wider world. The urgent need is for the British population and media to look further afield than is now generally the case: to examine how the British government is skillfully using international and EU institutions to substitute George Bush's terrifying world view for more measured and ambitious goals in all aspects of international relations and activities.
Admit it: even umpires are fallible
Sir: May I, as an Indian follower of cricket, offer a comment on the Test that Pakistan forfeited? The present law of cricket is an ass.
Virtually every day of every international cricket match offers fresh proof of the human fallibility of umpires. But somehow players are required to possess inhuman self-discipline in controlling their responses, while every law and convention is based on the myth that umpires' authority will crumble if we acknowledge their human fallibility. Such a conception of their authority has clearly gone to the head of some umpires.
Only the ICC remains entirely consistent in being spineless in the face of any crisis. I hope the Indian board and players will offer full support to their neighbours.
Sir: The first rule of cricket is that the umpire is always right - even when he's wrong. It is basic to the principle of fair play. That's cricket: that's sportsmanship.
Most players experience personal injustice sometime in their careers, and live with it. What is harder to live with is the sense that one's nation or community is being victimised. The current crisis within the international cricket community has perhaps been precipitated by the climate of suspicion and fear surrounding the war on terror.
When the Pakistan captain, Inzamam ul-Haq, asserts that "the game is about more than winning and losing; it's about respect, and countries come first", he is simply showing how fragile the concept of sportsmanship is. It is just as well that umpires still have the courage to defend it.
Debts the world owes to Iowa
Sir: So the question of the most-famous "son of Iowa" now falls to a choice between James Van Allen and the fictional Captain Kirk (letter, 22 August)?
Not to take anything away from the real achievements of the late Professor Van Allen, or even the fictional achievements of Captain Kirk, but even Britons - famous for their ignorance of foreign places - must surely have heard of Glenn Miller, born in Clarinda, Iowa; or William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, born in Scott City, Iowa; or even Andy Williams, born in Wall Lake, Iowa.
If those are too low-brow, perhaps the names of Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug, born in Cresco, Iowa, or opera great Lillian Russell, born in Clinton, Iowa, or jazz pioneer Bix Beiderbecke, born in Davenport, Iowa, might ring a bell. And if it's world-famous that we're looking for, there are few to compare to Marion Morrison, born in Winterset, Iowa, and perhaps better known by his stage name of John Wayne.
JOHAN P BAKKER
BRIGHTON, MICHIGAN, USA
Sir: James Lovelock (You Ask the Questions, 14 January) states that one of his main objections to wind farms is "that climate change is likely to make food and fuel from abroad increasing expensive.... To use land for wind farms, or worse for biofuels, could make us appreciably hungrier." He didn't address the fact that wind farms can be built offshore.
Mush of noise
Sir: Andy Gill (First Night, 21 August) describes the echo in Twickenham stadium at the Rolling Stones concert as "a distant annoyance". I don't know where the press were seated but in the middle tier of the west stand the echo was appalling and the vocals often inaudible in a whirling mush of distorted noise. Fireworks and clever videos are all very well but they ain't rock'n'roll. We won't be going to Twickenham to hear a band again. Let's hope that the new Wembley isn't designed the same way.
Sir: It is very dangerous for Robert Winston to attack the statement that "science is the truth" (Pandora, 21 August). His views will be exploited by the many religious groups who are striving to undermine the credibility of science purely because it is incompatible with their creationist beliefs or fundamentalist moral standpoint. As a prominent and distinguished scientist he has a responsibility to acknowledge that there are many demonstrable truths in science but only demonstrable falsehoods in religion.
Too poor to fly?
Sir: The "hefty rise" in flights from the UK (leading article, 19 August) is often cited as a threat to the environment. Politicians fight shy of taxing such flights because it would "price poorer people out of their international holidays". What evidence is there that cut-price flights have led to a surge in poor people going on foreign holiday? The alternative possibility is that they have encouraged well-off passengers to take more flights. Among my acquaintances, three weekend city breaks per year is common, on top of two or three foreign holidays of a week each.
The love of learning
Sir: Professor Mary Beard says "having an intimate relationship with a charismatic teacher ... is how the best learning happens" ("Lessons in love", 19 August). Of course this is not true, although it is often how the best marks happen - and that is something one can witness every day not just in university (especially in the subjective arts disciplines) but in British society at large. What she describes as the "teacher/pupil problem" is an unequal relationship only applicable within our elitist western culture and affecting only those who are insecure about their status and their own personalities.
Doors to illusion
Sir: Sir Ian Blair says that residents in Haringey, north London, are now happy to leave their front doors open and unlocked. This man is surely living in cloud-cuckoo land and obviously "not fit for purpose".
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