Letters: Even independents need policies


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The Independent Online

In urging London residents to vote for Siobhan Benita for mayor, it would have been useful if Mary Ann Sieghart had mentioned what Ms Benita's policies are ("We need more independents to break the stranglehold," 30 April).

I visited her website and after a bit of digging discovered that she is in favour of the expansion of Heathrow Airport and wants to bring London libraries under mayoral control, freeze public transport fares and appoint a London Education Commissioner. I do not disagree that more political alternatives are a good idea, but one should vote on policies not just experience and independence of political parties.

Unlike Mary Ann Sieghart, I do not consider Twitter an accurate barometer of support. Most Londoners are not on Twitter and have no intention of subscribing. As a means of communication it no doubt seems vital to the chattering set, but will hardly give a balanced view of the opinions of the capital's electorate.

Tim Matthews

Luton, Bedfordshire

The referendums on elected mayors give voters the chance to control who runs their councils in a way the secretive party group system does not allow. Voting for a council leader shrinks the local electorate from thousands to a mere handful of councillors.

Much nonsense has been spread about the powers of mayors, which are broadly similar to council leaders. Those powers could increase, but they will be held by someone the voters can choose and eject from office at an election. Those accusing mayors of having too much power are often the same people calling for more powers for local government – but only resting with someone they choose and not the voters.

Whatever the result of Thursday's votes those conservatives defending the status quo and those wishing to see a democratic change have had to justify their preferred systems – that can only be good for local democracy.

Professor Colin Copus

Wellington, Telford

"Dear fellow passengers, I'm sure you've had a very tiring weekend and really need that seat but I am heavily pregnant. Hate you all." So my eight-months-pregnant daughter tweets from her London overground train at 7am on Monday. And so, Boris, Ken and all other mayoral candidates – what do you intend to do about it? And if it's all about personal responsibility, what does it say about our attitudes to working pregnant women?

Susan Stern

Heslington, York

Tracking down that elusive recession

What a wonderful kaleidoscope is our new £1.20 Independent (26 April). On pages 1 and 10 Ben Chu looks for a Plan B in the face of possible recession. "Osborne is running out of escape routes." On page 11 Andrew Grice suggests that this might be a "recession made in Downing Street." On page 10 again David Blanchflower assures us the Chancellor has no plan for growth and hasn't a clue about economics.

By page 13 Sarah Cassidy and Jane Ryan give photogenic examples of confidence amongst some female business owners. Tom Bawden, Lucy Tobin and Gideon Spanier wade in on page 58 to tell us that the figures are probably quite wrong: "Claims of a double dip look wide of the mark."

By page 61 Simon English seems to be in two minds and Hamish McRae on page 63 brings a measure of calm to the whole debate: "Given the shower of doom being dumped on the public, things have held up well."

So I'm quite happy to stick with Plan A, particularly as under everyone's plans there are still huge spending cuts to come. If I were trying to stop constantly increasing my overdraft, the last thing I'd be doing is borrowing more.

Tim Stone

Whittlesford, Cambridgeshire

As this Government lurches from crisis to crisis they seem to have one response: "Disappointed." When the youth employment figures were announced Cameron said "disappointing". Nick Clegg said he was "bitterly disappointed" when Cameron vetoed the Euro treaty. And now the fall into recession is "very, very disappointing". Perhaps as an ordinary voter I can add that I am "extremely disappointed" with their performance.

Graham Jarvis

Guiseley, West Yorkshire

Hockey, royalty and snobbery

About 10 years ago the girls' hockey team of the bog-standard comprehensive I taught at had just beaten the team from a local, prestigious and expensive independent day/boarding girls' school. As they left the pitch one of the girls from the beaten rival team said, deliberately and very loudly, "Well, they can play hockey. Let's see if they can write!"

I find that this young lady has perhaps been taken on to write for The Independent. "For anyone who didn't go to boarding school, hockey is what was meant to happen when..." says the commentary on your double-page spread of photographs of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (28 April).

The comprehensive school team included the daughters of a novelist, the managing director of a local manufacturing company, a senior European Union project manager, local farmers and professional workers, plus single mothers. They have grown up to become, among other things, an accountant, a senior social worker, a policewoman, wives and mothers. Three still play hockey for their local women's team, one went on to play hockey for England.

Maybe education is what happens in state schools while The Independent is fawning over the Royals.

Jo Mumford

Broadway, Worcestershire

I think Ian Roberts (letter, 30 April) might modify his views on the monarchy if he travelled to Ireland and spoke to people there.

I go to Dublin two or three times a year on business and have been pleasantly surprised at the changing attitudes towards Britain and the British. Yes, of course it is partly because of disillusion with the eurozone, but the pivotal event for many Irish people was the visit of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in May last year.

In improving relations between the two countries, they achieved far more than any politician ever could. The taxi driver who took me back to the airport even suggested that being part the Commonwealth would be preferable to being part of the German empire!

Bob King

Rushton, Northamptonshire

Life ban for drug cheats

Sport died today ("Chambers is cleared to run in the Games", 30 April). A court has ruled that cheats who use drugs to gain an unfair advantage, who deserve to be banned for life, can be exempted from the consequences of their actions after serving a short ban.

I do not think I shall bother watching the forthcoming Olympics now, because the events will not be won by the best athletes, but by the athletes with the best drugs, and by the countries with the least scruples.

Ian McNicholas

Ebbw Vale

The Court of Arbitration for Sport decision declaring the British Olympic Association Olympics lifetime ban on drugs cheats unlawful was logical and only to be expected following the earlier decision in the LeShawn Merrit case. What happens next is perhaps more important than the present decisions.

Should, as has been suggested, the World Anti-Doping Agency introduce a blanket ban of four years for doping offences to satisfy the sports bodies? I think not – the present ban of two years for a first offence should remain, only to be increased to, say, four, according to the circumstances of each case. This would be line with the principle that the punishment should fit the "crime" and would ensure fairness both on and off the field of play.

Professor Ian Blackshaw

International Sports Law Centre

The Hague

Evidence for harm from abortion

Michael Gove is being urged by pro-abortion organisations to "publish guidance on how to broach the subject of abortion in schools" ("Schools 'given false claims on abortion' ", 28 April). The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children speaks in many schools across the country on these sensitive issues. We say nothing on abortion risks that is unsupported by scientific evidence.

On breast cancer, we say the risk "may" be increased (some research does seem to show this, although it is disputed). There is also evidence that infection after abortion can lead to infertility, and that abortion can increase the risk of miscarriage in subsequent pregnancies.

On the sad reality of abortion's harmful psychological impact, we rely on peer-reviewed studies by researchers such as Priscilla Coleman and the pro-choice researcher David Fergusson.

It is no surprise that the abortion industry and some of its supporters want to silence those who tell the truth on matters they would like hidden away.

Anthony McCarthy

Education and Publications Manager, Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, London, SE11

In brief...

No excuse for airport queues

Airline schedules are arranged months in advance and most passengers book their seats well ahead of their travel dates. Border Agency should have reasonably reliable figure for the hour-by-hour arrivals at all UK airports long before staff rosters are drawn up. In contrast to the recent long queues at Heathrow, at least they got it right at Gatwick last Monday with short queues despite a dozen recent arrivals.

Peter Erridge

East Grinstead


Simon Carr's recognition of David Cameron's frequent pronunciation of "proply" (30 April) brings to mind several other examples of what one might term "posh-speak". One often hears a sort of strangled "i-ink't" for "I think that", and "m'sy" for "I mean to say...", and ministers are often to be heard proclaiming that some point has been made "abs'l-ear" by a previous announcement. Maybe there should be a handy compendium of "posh-speak".

Roy Evans

Harpenden, Hertfordshire

Real difference

I am hugely amused by Guy Keleny's convoluted attempts to make "different to" look good (Errors and Omissions, 28 April). We say "opposite to" because the implication is that things opposite each other are facing or looking towards each other. As for the appalling "different than", I'd rewrite Thompson's sentence as "Governments do subsidise artists differently from cabinet makers or jewellery manufacturers," which is actually shorter, simpler and more mellifluous.

Sara Neill

Tunbridge Wells, kent

Young rock star

Can we assume there are at least eight noughts missing from your story (27 April) about the forthcoming auction of the Beau Sancy diamond at Sotheby's. The stone may well have been cut 400 years ago but I doubt very much if the diamond itself is so youthful.

Philip K Harvey


Style error

I am puzzled that an increasing number of grey-haired ladies (including at least one presenter of a TV series) choose to wear their hair long and flowing. Is this a style statement – bag-lady chic? Or do they simply not realise that it does not make them look any younger?

Doraine Potts

Woodmancote, Gloucestershire