Letters: Election poisoned by anti-EU smears

These letters appear in the Wednesday 21st issue of the Independent

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Despite clearly being a single-issue party (so long held to be the Achilles’ heel of the Greens), Ukip stands to do well at the forthcoming Euro elections. Whilst this state of affairs is no doubt a sad reflection on our so-called democracy, I incline to look for culprits beyond the electorate and among the tabloid press.

Leveson aside, as I am not here concerned about bad-mouthing individuals, there is a price to pay for this non-stop foaming-at-the-mouth outrage at all things foreign. It is time for real consideration of serious press regulations to somehow stop this constant drip-drip of mostly spurious horror stories.

Whereas organs like this one often bemoan efforts to curtail the liberty of the media, too little attention is paid to the toxic effects of not curbing press freedom, especially upon our politics.

Howard Pilott, Lewes


“I do not think Nigel Farage is racist, but...” This seems to be the accepted form of reproach from the establishment voices, with very few people in the Westminster village willing to call him out in a clear, unambiguous (I hesitate to use the term “black and white”) fashion. The time has come to a grasp the nettle, just as Mr Farage likes to think of himself as doing.

Mr Farage insists he and his party are not racist yet continues to come out with comments which any rational person would consider to be racist. His only defence of the notorious Romanian neighbour furore, besides the half-hearted apology, is simply that it was an issue which he did not mean to bring up. Why? One can only infer that he does at least realise racism tends to be frowned upon these days.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s reasonable to think that yes, indeed, it’s a duck. For heaven’s sake, Farage, just stop quacking.

Gareth Hopkins, Norwich


I cannot but echo Sandra Semple’s sentiment regarding gay people (letter, 19 May). I am a 74-year-old heterosexual but have never felt repelled or uncomfortable with gays.

As a teenager in the 1950s in London, any gay people I came in contact with had to be very circumspect as to their sexuality due to the barbaric laws in force at the time, but were always polite and amusing. The term “gay” was not generally used then except to mean lighthearted, but the people whose gayness couldn’t be disguised did seem very gay in the original meaning of the word. As for Nigel Farage, words fail me.

Patrick Cleary, Honiton, Devon


Torture: hold MI5 officers to account

Reports that British security services continue to be complicit in the torture of British residents abroad should not be brushed under the carpet (“MI5 stands accused of complicity in torture this year”, 20 May).

Despite the Government making several multi-million pound payouts to the victims of rendition and torture stretching back for over a decade, and the damning findings of the Gibson inquiry last year, to date not a single individual has been taken to task for those crimes.

This lack of accountability has helped to create a climate of impunity in which the security services continue to operate as they wish, with full confidence that their actions are above the law.

If the Government is serious about preserving its international image, it should begin to hold those complicit in torture to account and not expect the taxpayer to bail them out every time.

Or is that the price that we all pay for our security?

Fahad Ansari, Birmingham


HMRC fails to close tax loopholes

Your editorial “The tax factor: is it time to boycott Gary Barlow?” (13 May) misses a fundamental point, namely that the avoidance methods used should have been highlighted by HMRC long ago, and legislated against by the Government. If this had happened, there would be no hand-wringing dilemmas.

HMRC appear to be their own worst enemy. To my personal knowledge, they write endless letters from various differing and confusing addresses to tiny research companies not yet making any turnover. With their attention diverted, major companies are free to make off with their lunch.

Months ago, I wrote to them with a two-page potential solution to this scenario which has yet to be acknowledged, let alone responded to. The problem isn’t Gary Barlow; it is the revenue themselves.

Peter Rutherford, London NW6


Alan Gregory (letter, 15 May) is of course right that government should close loopholes and render aggressive tax avoidance schemes illegal. But he hardly strengthens his argument by arguing that Isas are somehow relevant to this discussion.

Isas are overwhelmingly used by people of relatively modest wealth to save unspent income on which tax has already been fully paid. The Government’s rules simply allow the Isa saver to avoid further taxation on the very modest interest which is gained.

Aggressive tax avoidance schemes are used by the very rich and by corporations to protect extremely large sums of untaxed earnings from being taxed at all, or, at worst, at anything above a very low rate. I am sure Mr Gregory can spot a difference.

Brian Mitchell, Cambridge


If the Conservative Party manifesto at the next general election promises to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1m, and one barges into the polling booth and votes for that party, is that aggressive tax avoidance?

Nigel Fox, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire


Pioneering help for great war wounded

It is good to see the orthopaedic rehabilitation work carried out in the Great War at the Royal Pavilion commemorated (17 May). We should also celebrate the achievements at the Shepherds Bush Military Hospital set up in the requisitioned Hammersmith Infirmary in west London.

There, under the Army’s consultant orthopaedic surgeon, Sir Robert Jones, not only was pioneering surgery carried out but everything possible was done through prosthetics and training to make the limbless man productive and enable him to hold his head high as a full member of society.

This aim was supported by the exiled King Manoel of Portugal, who ran the hospital and raised funds for rehabilitation.

Such a holistic approach is just as valuable today. Our modern servicemen deserve no less.

Kevin Brown, London W3

Sorry, shale gas isn’t green

Dr James Verdon (letter, 13 May) misrepresents the position of the IPCC.

Natural gas is less polluting than coal but this does not apply to shale gas because of the large amounts of methane released by fracking. Shale gas could only be part of a future energy mix if three important conditions are met. First that shale gas replaces coal and doesn’t just displace it to other countries. Second that methane releases are 10 times lower than current practices. And third that gas-fired power stations are fitted with an effective method of carbon capture (as stated in the IPCC press conference).

Since none of these conditions currently apply, shale gas is inconsistent with a low carbon future.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire


Unpleasantness at the theatre

Do we really need to know (19 May) that an “arts editor for a broadsheet” froze out Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s efforts to engage her in  conversation at the RSC production of Bring up the Bodies?

While I don’t doubt the socially flawed editor in question caused our intrepid correspondent and her husband much angst, are the columns of a national newspaper really the place to unleash the vicious (but admittedly enjoyable) little epithet  “Ms Ice Block mag hack”? Rise above it Yasmin, rise above it .

Christopher Dawes, London W11


Get it off your chest

Your obituary for the Swiss artist HR Giger (14 May) stated that the creature he designed for the film Alien hatched “via John Hurt’s stomach”.

Giger’s wonderfully designed alien in this famous scene was called the “chestburster”, as it breaks through John Hurt’s thorax, rather than his abdomen.

Martyn P Jackson, Cramlington, Northumberland


Sanity from a mad king

Reflecting on a screening of the National Theatre’s stunning production of King Lear, I‘d like to record that the loudest laugh of rueful recognition came when the mad king remarked to the blinded Gloucester:

Get thee glass eyes;

And, like a scurvy politician, seem

To see the things thou dost not.”

Sue Norton, York