David Cameron wants us English to send a message to our Scottish friends. OK, mine is: you’re lucky; you have a choice about living in a neo-liberal dystopia run by a corrupt elite with a moribund political system, and if I were you I’d get the hell out.
I find Pauline Taylor’s idealism quite endearing (letter, 8 February). So she wants to escape the consequences and frustration of Westminster politics. Don’t we all! I can’t help wondering, if independence does take place, whether Scots would become any less frustrated with the antics of their own politicians.
Pauline Taylor provides a selection of some of the most catastrophic decisions of UK governments over the past 25 years or so, but omits such egregious political policies as the “service economy” dogma of the 1980s, neglect of our manufacturing industries, the poll tax, privatisation of most of our vital infrastructure (much of which now belongs to foreign companies), deregulation of financial markets and banking, the destruction of the NHS and much more.
As someone who lived and worked in Scotland for 10 years and now has grandchildren living there, I have a great affection for the country and would be deeply sorry if the decision were taken to leave the UK. However, I fully understand Ms Taylor’s reasoning and only wish there was a way that the rest of the UK could achieve the high quality of governance that many of us long for and all of us so badly need.
Pauline Taylor paints a strange picture of Scottish independence. She seems to assume that the government of her newly independent country will always remain exceptionalist, centre-left liberal, and thus free from the kind of folly perpetuated by successive UK governments, many of whom had numerous Scots playing prominent roles.
Why? Is she assuming Scotland will not be a democracy? Who knows what government independent Scots will elect 10, 20, 50 years down the line?
Concentrating can be fun
If Tristram Hunt wants schools to teach children attentiveness (“Children ‘need lessons in how to concentrate’ ”, 10 February), one easy and fun way to do it would be to introduce chess lessons to the curriculum.
I coach chess in a primary school every week – one of more than 280 inner-city schools reached by the pioneering charity Chess in Schools and Communities. Not only does playing chess clearly help children to concentrate in a quiet environment, but it also improves the ability to think critically, solve problems, and manage emotions.
It also provides potential for positive role modelling. Mr Hunt only has to ask his colleagues Rachel Reeves and the Eagle twins, all former chess prodigies.
I started to read the interview with Tristram Hunt and his assertion that children need to be taught to concentrate. However, I was distracted by the telly and couldn’t be bothered to finish it.
It helps a lot to have rich parents
Nicholas Bevington (letter, 7 February) has understated the advantages of an independent education.
It all starts with the advantage of affluent parents, able to ensure that before formal education starts the child has the best start possible. At school the child will have the chance to mix with the “right” kind of children, maybe make the “right” contacts, maybe be coached to ensure he or she goes to the “right” university.
After leaving, the young person will have established the contacts to make a good start in a job, or maybe an unpaid internship with the people who can ensure that he or she moves rapidly up the ladder. And they may meet the “right” partner to ensure that this privilege gets passed on to any children.
The picture in the same issue of The Independent of the Government front bench amply shows the advantage of an independent education.
Forgive me if I sound bitter, but a lifetime teaching children from often deprived backgrounds taught me that some children have barriers to overcome that children from independent schools could never contemplate.
I see Michael Gove’s latest plan to improve educational standards is to make all schools “as good as the independent schools”. He hopes people visiting schools will not be able to tell whether they are in a state school or an independent school.
Apart from doubting the wisdom of this, in that employers continue to tell us that the skills they need are in communication, team-working and problem solving and not in learning and regurgitating facts, I have an easy measure to suggest. Any visitor would only need to count the number of pupils in a classroom in relation to the qualified teachers present to know exactly the kind of school they are in.
Crow’s mistake: he’s too good at his job
The personal attacks on Bob Crow just go to prove how effective he is as a trade unionist. He really stands up for RMT members and gets results.
It’s amusing to hear commentators and politicians bleating about their belief in trade unionism and their objections to Crow. These hypocrites are merely underlining how they will stand up for trade unionism just so long as it is ineffective. More union leaders like Bob Crow would mean a more equal and just society all round.
Also, why don’t those papers that go taking pictures of Crow on holiday send their paparazzi out in search of the various City bankers sunning it up on our taxes (their bonuses) in distant parts?
Ukip ‘nutters’ start to look dangerous
Peter Hain’s warning to Labour about the influence of Ukip is a wake-up call that the party ignores at its peril. The Tea Party in the US arose out of disaffection with the political class. It too was seen as a bunch of “nutters” at the fringe until it became clear that it was a growing influence in national politics which couldn’t be stopped.
The result is Tea Party dominance of the Republican Party in Congress, which deeply damages national governance. Ukip is not the Tea Party but it is a political movement from a similar root and with a similar level of appeal.
Peter Hain fears that Ukip will hurt Labour as much as the Conservatives. This is only to be expected given that an informal incomes policy of importing cheap labour with the aim of depressing unskilled pay has been operative for some time and was most in evidence under Blair and Brown. Curtail immigration and the market will automatically raise unskilled wages. It’s that simple.
Not being able to control migrants from within an ever-expanding EU is tantamoumt to importing cheap labour.
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset
Shifting the blame for the floods
Experts agree that climate change is almost certainly the cause of the current flooding. The Government, meanwhile, is pushing all-out for fracking, which will make climate change far worse.
And then it cuts the Environment Agency’s budget, and then tries to blame it for the flooding. Extraordinary!
Dr Bob Banks
Giraffe condemned for his genes
I am very distressed and saddened by the execution of a healthy 18-month-old giraffe, just because his genes were too similar to other giraffes in a breeding programme.
The actions of Copenhagen Zoo are perverse especially in the light of at least two wildlife parks that were willing to have him and a wealthy benefactor who would pay for him. From a young age I never liked the concept of zoos and only tolerated them because of breeding programmes to conserve endangered species. Zoos must now change to restore faith in their usefulness.
Not bad for an undesirable type
For Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to write (10 February) that the Tory activist she met was “genial and open-minded for a landed gent from the shires” is the moral equivalent of suggesting that such and such a person was “quite intelligent and non-violent for a black boy from Brixton”. But you wouldn’t print the latter, would you?
D J Taylor