Letters: Edward Heath's 'great success'

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Sir: Much is being made of Edward Heath's success in getting Britain admitted to the European Community in 1972-3 which he regarded as one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century.

The Treaty of Rome was signed by the six founding member countries in March 1957. Britain was invited to join but Prime Minister Macmillan declined and stated we were not yet ready for what he saw as a united states of Europe.

By 1961 Macmillan had realised his mistake. The Common Market was a roaring success economically, whereas Britain languished. He asked Heath to negotiate our entry into the Economic Union. The first time Heath applied he was vetoed by General de Gaulle of France who no doubt enjoyed the moment. The second time he applied de Gaulle vetoed his application again. It was only on his third application was Heath successful.

My point is that if Macmillan and the Tory Party had had the perception to sign the Rome treaty when invited to do so in 1957, then Heath's efforts would not have been necessary. His so called "greatest success of the century" was to put right a Tory party political mistake.



Sir: So Margaret Thatcher has paid a "glowing tribute" to Edward Heath? Are there no bounds to political hypocrisy? By taking the UK into the Common Market as was, Edward Heath did more for this country and Europe than any Prime Minister before or since. By contrast, through her divisive policies and manner, Margaret Thatcher did more to destroy the goodwill created by Mr Heath in Europe, undermining his achievements and thus set the tone for relationships between the UK and the rest of Europe for many years to come.



Sir: It was with surprise that I realised that your obituary of Sir Edward Heath failed to mention the most enduring relic of his 1970 election campaign - the promise to cut prices "at a stroke". If the BBC continues to repeat episodes of Only Fools and Horses at the current rate, it bids fair to be remembered long after Chamberlain's "piece of paper" or Wilson's "pound in your pocket" are forgotten.



Sir: I don't remember anyone calling Edward Heath a "political giant" before he died; least of all Thatcher.



Extremists can never be appeased

Sir: Steve Richards and the authors of the recent Chatham House report on terrorism are engaging in fallacious reasoning when they argue that "riding pillion with a powerful ally has proved costly in terms of British and US military lives, Iraqi lives, military expenditure, and the damage caused to the counter-terrorism campaign" (Opinion, 19 July).

While their contention is tragically borne out in statistical terms, their implicit argument that we would have lost fewer lives had we not supported the US-led invasion in Iraq is unknowable. By the report's own admission, "their [al-Qa'ida's] track record shows that they would have no compunction about using this type of weapon [chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear] to cause large numbers of civilian deaths". Were we not now engaging the bulk of the international Jihadist movement in Afghanistan and Iraq, I fear we would be fighting them in more familiar surroundings, with potentially even more devastating results.

Islamists' alleged grievances (Iraq, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Kashmir, Chechnya et al) mask their unbridgeable antipathy to democracy and pluralism. The US and the UK are steadfast in their commitment to these values, and it would behove many in the West to remember that appeasement, as our own history has shown many times, only incites further aggression.



Sir: Messrs Blair, Reid and Straw argue that there is no link between British participation in the attack on Iraq and the London bombings, on the grounds that fundamentalist Muslim terrorist attacks preceded the war. But the attacks that preceded the war were aimed at America and Israel. Since the war, Australia, Spain and now Britain have been the victims of terrorist attacks. These three countries were in the tiny number that sided with the US in attacking Iraq. Are we to believe that the attacks on these three countries are mere coincidence?



Sir: The Government's insistence, and Parliament's acquiescence in not mentioning 'The War' when discussing the London suicide bombings is negligence. We the public have been much more comfortable discussing these atrocities through the prism of Iraq than the politicians. And if the Government is not prepared to take a holistic world view when securing the safety of the citizens of Britain, due to its own concerns for self preservation, it should be held in the utmost contempt.



True believers: the pitfalls of faith

Sir: Tony Blair tries to draw a distinction between "true religious faith" and the religious beliefs of suicide bombers. Christianity, Islam and Judaism all require their adherents to faithfully believe their holy literature, some of which is shared between them. It would be interesting for Tony to ask the most senior British clerics to help by publicly stating which bits of their holy books should be repudiated as "false faith"; perhaps the Archbishop of Canterbury should start the process.

To the religious, "true faith" is a tautology: to the rest of us it is a contradiction in terms. A tolerant liberal society lets adults believe what they like: but it is surely important that our institutions, and especially our education system, should preserve rational secular space, both physically and intellectually, and guarantee freedom of access to it by all members of society including children. Perhaps the wisdom of the French, in rigorously defending their hard-won secular constitution and school system will now be more apparent.



Sir: It would be nice to live in a world that celebrated heterogeneity, but problems linked to the nature of religion remain.

Muslims and Christians cannot accept equality between their beliefs, because their scriptures tell them both that they have access to the one Truth. Nor can they accept that the Hindu, Jewish, or Humanist paths could be as valid as their own; in fact they are commanded to convert others to their view.

Reflecting on my own past in the Christian church, I would add that a strict opposition to questioning within religions is another major obstacle to eradicating extremism. In churches and mosques people are told that questioning is dangerous: the faithful do not realise that it is the failure to question their beliefs that is truly dangerous.



More self doubt and less certainty, please

Sir: If Professor Sir Roy Meadow had been less adamant in giving his evidence in the trial of Sally Clark she might not have been imprisoned and he would probably not have been struck off the medical register. If Messrs Bush and Blair had had less confidence in their own beliefs, we might not have gone to war in Iraq. If the young men who created such devastation in the London underground recently had been able to entertain the possibility that they might be mistaken, the 55 or more people they murdered would still be alive.

A smattering of self-doubt could have prevented these and many more of the horrors that regularly make the news. However, certainty, self-confidence and strong leadership are still regarded as virtues in our society, as exemplified by the adversarial nature of Parliament and the law courts. I firmly believe we should be promoting the values of hesitation, humility and self-questioning.

I could, of course, be wrong.



The 'evil ideologies' of our own culture

Sir: We are surrounded by our own "evil ideologies", though familiarity has blunted their meaning. Many historic buildings in Scotland carry mottoes such as "Nemo me impune lacessit" ("Nobody provokes me and gets away with it") and "Dieu et mon droit. Honi soit qui mal y pense" ("God and my right. Shame on him who thinks evil of that"). Americans have "My country right or wrong". When one's own society utters them, these aggressive claims sound normal, but when another society does, we find it unacceptable. We need leaders all over the world who are prepared to look beyond tit-for-tat philosophies and to say that they will not be part of the cycle of violence.



Teens: just be good for goodness' sake

Sir: The idea of incentivising "good" or community-minded behaviour for teenagers (report, 18 July) made me laugh (and wince) at its inherent paradox. Clearly, as soon as you introduce a directly self-focused motivation for acts of goodness, it is no longer an act that is about doing right by the community but rather an act for self gain.

Of course it remains a subject of debate in ethics whether any act can be motivated without some rational consideration of personal benefits or avoidance of detriment to ourselves. However, to connect so immediately and superficially the idea of doing an act of goodness with material reward is to promote the precise opposite of community spirit. Rather, it suggests that such acts are not worth doing without obvious pay back, removing even the consideration of derived benefit (someone might do the same for me one day; or, a better community is good for my personal well-being), let alone doing good for its own sake. I don't think this is the lesson we want to teach our youth.



Europe, not India, is the bigger polluter

Sir: Your account of India's pollution problems (report, 5 July) is misleading. The fact that India produces more carbon emissions per year than any European country merely reflects the fact that India's population is substantially more than that of any European nation. Break that down on a per capita basis and it becomes clear that India's carbon dioxide emissions are one quarter of the world average (World Bank, 2001). India accounts for only 2 percent of world primary energy consumption. Calculations conducted by a colleague at Cambridge University show that an average English child consumes eight times as much of the world's natural resources in terms of energy as a child born in any non-G8 country. Thus it is we who must tighten our belts and drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.



Teachers need secretaries, too

Sir: Most professional career positions have the support of a secretary ("Teachers' new deal", 19 July). Historically, medicine, the law etc have been seen as men's work while teaching, particularly in primary schools, has always been seen as a job for women. If all the professionals in our schools - and not only the head teachers - were supported by secretarial staff they would be have far more time to deal with curriculum and discipline issues.



The nanny diatribes

Sir: Helen Kirwan-Taylor ("The trouble with nannies," 19 July) discusses her own needs, the needs and fantasies of her husband, and, at length, the perceived needs of the nannies whom she has employed. The only mention of the needs of her two sons is that "children, like plants, benefit from conversation". Perhaps those who are not prepared to put the needs of their children first should restrict their nurseries to the plant variety.



Sir: Why does Helen Kirwan-Taylor blame Daisy the nanny for Jude Law's problems? Surely the villain here is Mr Law himself, who has persuaded Sienna Miller to get engaged to him, even though he doesn't love her enough to refrain from sleeping with another woman. There is also the question of why, if he only has his children at weekends, he has to employ a nanny to look after them at all.



Blair's dismissals

Sir: Tony Blair dismissed The Lancet report on Iraqi deaths. He also dismissed the LSE report on ID-card costs. He now dismisses the Chatham House report linking the London bombings to the Iraq war. Is it rational behaviour to simply dismiss everything that contradicts one's world view?



Sir: The Chatham House report concludes that the Iraq war has made Britain more of a terror target. Following Tony Blair's speech at the weekend, should we assume that the scholars behind this report have been duped by cleverly targeted extremist propaganda?



John Buchan and jihad

Sir: Hard on the heels of the Queen's announcement that terrorism will not make us alter our way of life came Radio 4's capitulation in cancelling the serialisation of John Buchan's harmless Greenmantle, presumably because it features Islamic jihad. I have seen no attempt to justify this.



Dogmatic atheists

Sir: Mr Musspole (letter, 19 July) should know that the absence of belief is also a belief - and, judging from his attitude and that of others with similar beliefs, one which is as close to dogma as anything.



Bono the hero?

Sir: Pandora is incorrect with his assertion (14 July) that Meat Loaf "upset the Irish by saying local hero Bono 'is too far up his own arse' ". "Some Irish" would be more accurate - there are many of us here who are in total agreement with Meat Loaf's statement.