Letters: EU referendum

EU referendum would give the xenophobes their chance
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The Independent Online

Sir: You are right (leading article, 12 September), a referendum on the Reform Treaty would indeed force a UK government to make the case for the EU for the first time in 30 years. But, in advocating a referendum, we should appreciate that the stakes would be very high. There is a real danger a referendum would be lost.

The campaign would be dominated by the xenophobic prejudices of much of the press, so we should remember that the EU is, above all, foreign. It speaks other languages, a heinous crime for most monolingual Brits. The EU inhabits the same space as Islam, al-Qa'ida, east European workers, the Portuguese police and asylum-seekers. All are demons who provide convenient scapegoats when anything goes wrong.

The EU has sought to impose restrictions on monopolies, most recently mobile phone companies that levy extortionate charges on customers who cross a frontier. It has limited our freedom to dump raw sewage at sea; it demands that automobile manufacturers reduce carbon emissions; it restricts the disposal of waste in landfill; it obliges businesses to pay women on a similar level to men; it insists on the highest standards of health and safety at work, and of consumer protection, anywhere in the world.

All of these can be construed as attacks on "our way of life", which apparently includes buying tomatoes in pounds and ounces or using the ludicrous Fahrenheit scale where freezing is 32. None of this should be questioned, let alone threatened. There is a high level of racial prejudice in this debate.

We need to consider the likely consequences of defeat. At the very least, the EU would be thrown into prolonged crisis and institutional paralysis. The clarion calls for withdrawal from the Union would become ever louder and it would be harder still for any government to make the case for remaining in the Union.

We are paying the price for the timidity of the Major and Blair governments in particular. The last Prime Minister to leave office having, on balance, made a positive contribution to European integration was Margaret Thatcher. She signed the Single European Act, the blueprint for the Single European Market. I wonder if she would admit as much in a referendum campaign?

Simon Sweeney

York St John University, York

Bring back the Dixon era police

Sir: Joan Smith suggests (Comment, 13 September) that "No one wants a return to the era of Dixon of Dock Green", in reference to police procedures and methods.

I beg to differ. The role immortalised by Jack Warner in the film The Blue Lamp and later in the famous TV series may have been only drama, and certainly the reality of police work in the East End of London contained a darker and seamier side even in the 1950s, but for many people in this country and abroad, Dixon epitomised exactly what was so admirable about the "British bobby" of that era.

He was unbiased and impartial, firm but fair; he was capable both of sympathising with a victim and retaining the grudging respect of the villains, and he would have had no time at all for the modern PC attitudes regarding crime and anti-social behaviour.

His visibility and accessibility to the people of his "patch" was a clear message that justice would be served and law and order maintained. Above all, he was capable of exercising his judgement about what constituted teenage high spirits and what was likely to lead to more serious criminal activity.

I don't know if the local police consciously sought to emulate Dixon when I was growing up in north London in the 1960s, but a policeman on his beat certainly knew full well that sending a young tearaway home at age 13 with a flea in his well-boxed ear, might well prevent that same young tough getting his "collar felt" a few years later.

I am certain many Londoners would dearly like to see a return to the policing of the "Dixon era", if only because it would mean we would actually see police officers walking the beat again, instead of holed up at the local nick.

Alan Clarke

London EC1

Sir: My experiences with the police are similar to those described by Joan Smith. My son was beaten up on two occasions and neither time did the police take any action, despite, in the first instance, me telling them who the culprit was.

I recently bought a car on Ebay which turned out to be stolen. The local police filled in the various forms and towed the car away. The Met declined to investigate the seller (I gave them his name, address and telephone number) on the grounds that he "probably" bought the car unaware it was stolen.

In other words, they couldn't be bothered, although they did manage to find the time to take my car away. Something is not quite right here, is it?

Pete Barrett

Colchester, Essex

Sir: Joan Smith complains about the police being interested only in logging crimes, not solving or preventing them. Two years ago, I went to a police station to report my wallet had just been stolen. While there, I started calling the banks to cancel cards. One of them replied that the card was being used at that precise moment in a supermarket 300 yards away. I immediately told the policeman: his reply, "Sorry sir, I have some paperwork to complete first".

Last year, my laptop was stolen from my office. There were obvious suspects, but the police were not in the least interested in checking CCTV footage.In each case they logged the details impeccably for their records. Hurrah.

But Ms Smith is wrong to blame this on police culture, which is responsible for racist, sexist and homophobic behaviours which are all well-evidenced elsewhere. The problem is the ridiculous targets officers work to, which drive the way they react to every non-violent crime. Change the targets and the ways police are measured, and they might try to solve crimes rather than just record them.

Chris Brandt

Sevenoaks, Kent

Switching off the onscreen violence

Sir: I could not agree more with David Gordon's sentiments about television programmes ("Relentless TV diet of rudeness, humiliation and death" , 11 September).

I would add to his list the endless programmes involving violence against women deemed entertainment, scheduled across all channels often at the same time. I have given up relying on the TV to be entertained, let alone educated; when I need that quiet night in, I resort to the radio and a book at bedtime (without the cocoa).

When analogue is switched off, I have decided that unless programmes have improved by then, I shall turn off my TV for good. Who will join me?

Kate jones

London se4

Beaches of Italy better than Britain's

Sir: In your article about Italian beaches ("Free Italy's beaches, say campaigners", 10 September), the actor Rupert Everett appears to be ignorant of the facts.

The beaches in Italy are rented out by the local councils to local people, each of whom is responsible for his own beach area. The councils use the money generated for the enjoyment of the tourists, with free concerts, fireworks, entertainments and weekly events.

The bagnini, who look after the beach zones, ensure they are kept clean and tidy 24 hours a day. They provide showers, toilets, changing facilities, libraries, keep-fit areas, trampolines, children's play areas and countless other amusements. There are daily keep-fit classes and children's shows.

Every so often along the beach is a first-aid centre, fully manned by professional staff. The bagnini, or concessionaires, take it in turns to provide a lifeguard service.

They serve tourists from all parts of the Continent, who appreciate the facilities provided, even though they have to pay for them. They return to their favourite beaches year after year.

As far as Mr Everett is concerned, he does not have to go to Italy. He should stay at home and use the English beaches, crowded, dirty and without amenities.

Carla Reeve

Godalming, Surrey

Care of elderly no NHS priority

Sir: Apropos Miesh Pleeth's letter (11 September): the response of my local NHS foundation trust to similar complaints from the Patient Involvement Forum and others regarding care of the elderly has been to cut the number of hospital beds available to such patients with the declared aim of transferring 1,800 of them to care in the community.

This is despite protests from social services that they are already over-stretched because of staff shortages, with nearly 100 high-dependency patients on the waiting list for home help.

Clearly, as in north London, care of the elderly is not a high priority for our local NHS trust.

Dr Bob Heys

Ripponden, west Yorkshire
The writer is former chairman Calderdale and Huddersfield Hospitals Patient and Public Involvement Forum

Successful women who do not marry

Sir: Jemima Lewis ("Why are spinsters singled out like this?", 8 September) perpetuates the myth that single women are the passive victims of their fate rather than the masters of their own destiny. She thus suggests that such women are condemned to a life of stigma and hardship and are forced to seek consolation in their careers with the success that arises from this making them even less attractive to the opposite sex – for apparently, men do not like clever and successful women.

As evidence for these "facts" she states a woman's marriage prospects are negatively correlated to the size of her IQ. Has she not considered that this negative correlation may be due to the fact that intelligent and successful women have more life choices available to them and are therefore less inclined to enter the oppressive and outdated institution of marriage.

Dr Elaine Argyle


Foot-and-mouth strikes again

Sir: So we are now suffering the second foot-and-mouth outbreak in as many months, thanks, it seems, to the boffins at the Institute of Animal Health. Taxpayers are therefore funding an establishment which has become the biggest single threat to livestock farming in the UK.

The vaccine produced at Pirbright cannot be used to protect animals against the very disease being spread by the same laboratory. Had ring vaccination been implemented in August, we would not be in the mess in which we now find ourselves. It is time that the policy of indiscriminate slaughter of animals to control disease was ended, since it has now been proven not to work. Or perhaps it would be cheaper and more in keeping with the age of spin simply to rebrand Pirbright as the Institute of Animal Death.

Huw Rowlands


Pitfalls of 'double egg and chips'

Sir: John Hade is right (letter, 12 September); a plate of chips with two fried eggs has long been one of my favourite simple lunches. Well aware of the pitfalls, I invariably order "chips with two eggs". This in turn is invariably translated by the person taking the order into " double egg and chips".

Last summer, in northern France, at a bar called Le Tommy, which caters for the British visiting battlefields, I placed my usual order. We were a large table and it was some time before we realised that the two plates of chips with a fried egg which no one remembered ordering but the kitchen insisted we had were, in fact, my "double egg and chips".

Jonathan Bates

Southend-on-Sea, Essex

Restricted view

Sir: The other morning, on my motorbike, I eventually managed to get past a car erratically driven by (presumably) a woman who was attempting to see through a slot 3cm by 9cm in her burka. Am I a racist for criticising this?

Denis Wedgwood


The price of a loaf

Sir: In your report "Wheat prices hit record high" (13 September), you state that the price has doubled since the spring, with a bushel, enough to make more than 70 loaves, rising by £2.25. This is approximately 3p more per loaf. Yet recent reports say the big supermarkets and food manufacturers intend to respond to the new wheat prices with an initial rise of 8p per loaf, with worse to come. There is clearly something seriously wrong with our economic and political processes if farmers and consumers have to accept such blatant profiteering as normal practice.

Aidan Harrison

Rothbury, Northumberland

Auden's lost works

Sir: W H Auden and his writings are in the minds of many readers. I am wondering if there are any taught English by him in 1933, when he wrote a wonderful school revue. A search for a full copy of this revue has not borne fruit. It is just possible that an aged reader remembers the revue and retained a copy of the script?

Martin Mottram


Village ponds

Sir: In the days when village ponds were used for watering horses (letter, 12 September) families tended to be large, often into double figures. If one or two drowned in the pond there were lots more at home.

Richard Welch

Nantglyn, Denbeighshire

Financial meltdown

Sir: So around 15 per cent of all subprime lending has developed what the Americans call "serious delinquencies" ("There's a storm brewing – and it's coming this way", 10 September). Recently I have noticed that some of my own finances have also started to develop " serious delinquencies". This is intolerable, and the financial authorities need to get a grip and crack down on them hard.

Ivor Morgan


Beware of Boris

Sir: If London were to be hit by another 7/7 bombing, would anyone in their right mind say, "Thank goodness Boris Johnson is in charge?"

Christopher Clayton

Waverton, Cheshire