Exit strategy for a prime minister with blood on his hands
Sir: I thoroughly enjoyed your "scrapbook of touching moments" (Extra, 6 September) and it is true that there is much comedy value in the current chaotic political climate. But let that not detract from the gravity of Blair's true legacy.
I have no doubt that a rosy retirement awaits Mr Blair, with certain prospects of continuing high income, and yet this is a man who is leaving Downing Street with more blood on his hands than any British Prime Minister for generations. All this talk of the grand "New Labour project" and "radical reforms" here at home is irrelevant. Everything this government has done over the last nine years is overshadowed by the fact that through the invasion of Iraq, this man and his friend in Washington are directly responsible for the deaths of thousands upon thousands of innocent people, and through his appeasement of Israeli aggression, responsible for hundreds more.
Instead of squabbling over the manner of Blair's departure, we should all be seriously debating how we can prevent a man like this from ever gaining the reins of power again (routine screening and and home visits in infancy, perhaps).
Sir: In the biggest issue of our time, could someone advise me how Brown and Blair differ? They stood shoulder to shoulder in the Iraq war debate. Brown boasted of his huge war chest to save us from Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction. On lies, they jointly dragged us into an illegal war and they have helped make the UK a more dangerous place. I want both to go and now please.
Sir: What does it tell us about Tony Blair that he has prepared an exit strategy for his departure from No 10, but none for the soldiers he sent into Iraq?
Scramble for power shames democracy
Sir: The pitiful sight of our politicians scuttling from press briefing to press briefing as they try to manoeuvre themselves into position behind whoever they think may be able to bestow upon them a juicy position within the new Labour leader's retinue makes me wonder who exactly is attending to the country's problems.
It is embarrassing to realise that these desperately self-seeking men and women have nothing to talk about except the latest snippet of tittle tattle as they try to second-guess Blair or Brown's next move. If anyone ever wondered why the average British voter couldn't give a toss about politics, they only need to take a look at the charade being acted out before us all.
DOWNHAM MARKET, NORFOLK
Sir: Richard Bryant-Jefferies (letter, 6 September) laments the selfishness of Labour politicians for turning on their leader in order to save their parliamentary seats. His disapproval is misplaced. These MPs are reflecting the views of their voters.
Blair led Britain into an unpopular war and subsequent events have shown him to have been wrong and popular misgivings to have been well founded. We should applaud this example of our representative democracy in action.
Sir: I am no fan of Tony Blair, but doesn't the current infighting amongst ministers and MPs over his departure date not further show the weakness of western-style democracy?
Here once again, just as under the Tories, we see the interests of the people and country given a much lower priority when politicians worry about their careers and the election prospects for their party for months on end rather than what is best for the nation in determining government policy.
Sir: As it is no secret that the Prime Minister has closely modelled himself and his policies on the Blessed Margaret he can hardly complain if history now appears to be repeating itself.
And after all, Lord Blair, like her, will be able to console himself with the substantial fees he will receive from his American friends, as he slips into his dotage delivering speeches trying to explain to them why his party and the British people were so ungrateful.
THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS
Sir: If Gordon Brown hasn't the guts to mount a coup against his next-door neighbour, how on earth would he deal with the real tyrants of this world were he ever to become PM? The fault, dear Brutus ....
Sir: We should erect a statue of Blair in Baghdad so that the residents can draw yet another line in the sand by pulling it down on 31 May 2007.
Sir: British soldiers on duty in Afghanistan or Iraq have a horrible task. It is no help to then to know of self-serving power struggles going in Westminster.
Sir: Are some Labour Party MPs still embarrassed after being in government after nine years and want to be back in opposition? The electorate voted back Tony Blair last year, no one else - perhaps they should have a say on the next leader.
MIDSOMER NORTON, SOMERSET
After Blair, look for a new beginning
Sir: Gordon Brown has had the most difficult job in modern politics over the past five years. And he has acquitted himself with conspicuous skill and no little honour.
Once New Labour had been born, the easiest thing in the world would have been to split the party. (MPs told me privately as far back as 1998 that they knew that Blair was nothing more or less than "a Tory", but for the time being he was winning elections.)
Brown's job became invidious. A politician of his professionalism and gut instincts knew that overt party division is always suicide for all. On the other hand, as a democratic socialist, he was determined that Labour should still have meaning - his third-world stance and his policies for child poverty should be counted the finest accomplishments of the otherwise largely disastrous New Labour experiment.
Like many others, I don't quite know what to make of the Brown silences. But it is just possible that when he escapes from the shackles of the recent past something far better, more politically coherent and courageous, may emerge.
Sir: I hope Labour ministers will not force Tony Blair out of power. Next thing we know, we will have George Bush sending his troops to restore democracy.
Migrants in the labour market
Sir. I was saddened to read the response of Cole Davies (2 September) to my previous letter (31 August) on the subject of immigration of workers from Bulgaria and Romania. It is not racist to want to maintain the pay and conditions of people already in this country, while sympathising with the motives of workers from other countries who merely wish to better themselves.
My "building chums" are, in fact, workers (not employers) in the building industry who are beginning to find themselves even more exploited than they were previously due to the influx of workers from Poland. They, like me, do not blame these migrant workers for taking advantage of our labour market. Rather, they (like me) blame the large companies for whom they work for exploiting the sudden increased supply of cheap labour.
The one or two that I know who do run their own businesses are "one-man-band" operations and simply cannot afford to take on apprenticeships due to the massively increased GNVQ qualification paperwork that is now involved in the process. My criticisms of the building industry for not taking on apprentices was aimed at the national-level companies who are in a position to take on apprenticeships because of economy of scale but choose not to because they can employ already trained Polish tradesmen at lower wages.
I wonder, if there were a sudden influx of migrant "careers advisors", prepared to work for half Mr Davies' salary, would he still manage to maintain his right-on liberalism?
Healthy food for children at school
Sir: Food campaigners are delighted at recent announcements that government will introduce entitlement to school cookery lessons for teenagers. This means that it has adopted nearly all of the measures contained in the Children's Food Bill which I introduced in Parliament last year. They have set minimum nutritional standards for school meals, are removing fizzy drinks and sugary snacks from vending machines, and are now introducing cookery lessons. For this they should be congratulated.
Alan Johnson is also right in identifying junk food bought outside school hours as the real problem. The last main proposal in my Bill was to introduce a total ban on advertising junk food before the 9pm watershed. This would stop food manufacturers from marketing foods high in fat, salt and sugar to our children. Ofcom is currently considering whether to introduce such a ban. For parents, it won't come soon enough.
MARY CREAGH MP
(WAKEFIELD, LABOUR) HOUSE OF COMMONS
Biofuels, the new GM threat
Sir Peter Kendall of the National Farmers Union points out that genetically modified crops are not being grown in England (Letters, 4 September); this is a real victory that we in the green movement and all sensible people who believe in "the precautionary principle" have achieved. The Labour/LibDem Scottish Executive threat to bring GM crops into Scotland remains deeply worrying.
But Kendall then lets the fat cat out of the bag - the agro-chemical-biotech industries' desire to force GM biofuels on us, across Britain, if they can't make us eat GM food. The British public have squarely rejected GM foods, but Mr Kendall omits to mention that a large scale biofuel industry using GM will inevitably contaminate our food chain through spillage and the intentional or unintentional mixing of conventional and GM seeds.
COUNCILLOR ANDREW BOSWELL
COUNCILLOR RUPERT READ
NORWICH GREEN PARTY
Chamberlain and the Munich cave-in
Sir: W H Cousins (letter, 6 September) is wrong to excuse Chamberlain of the charge of being the worst appeaser.
Chamberlain pursued a policy of denying the Spanish Republic the arms it needed to defend itself against German-supported rebellion, isolating France. He refused an alliance with the Soviet Union to defend Czechoslovakia. The Munich agreement allowed Hitler to occupy the fortified Sudetenland, equivalent to subtracting 40 divisions from the Allied total. That discouraged the only people who could have got rid of Hitler, the German generals. Anti-communism blinded Chamberlain to Britain's true national interest.
Sir: What were the aims of the participants of the Munich Conference? Hitler wanted the Sudetenland (which he got). Mussolini wanted a closer bond with Hitler (which he got). Chamberlain wanted to sacrifice Czechoslovakia in order to get a written agreement from a proven liar that Nazi Germany would not make any further expansion claims in Europe (which he got). And Daladier wanted to go home and continue to build up the French Armed forces behind their Maginot line (which he got). So everyone attending Munich got what they wanted and a year later war began.
Forget the USA being invited - their isolationist Congress would have permitted Roosevelt to do nothing. The only two nations who would have stood up to fascism, if they had been invited, were Soviet Russia and Czechoslovakia. But they weren't invited because Munich was a cave-in before it had even met.
Sir: I assume that Alex James is an escaped "townie" and may be forgiven his unfamiliarity with Juniperus communis (6 September). However he has ignored the number one rule of never tasting any wind fruit or berry without first positively identifying it .
HIGH WYCOMBE, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE
The costs of junk mail
Sir: "Why does the majority of the population share the notion that it's OK for something you've paid for to be full of advertising [a newspaper], but that advertising that's delivered to your door for free [junk mail] is not?" asks Neil Hassan (letter, 4 Sept). But it is not without a cost: an environmental one. What a waste of the trees and the power required to turn them into an almost useless product. And there are, contrary to the exaggeration made by your correspondent, perfectly good reasons for buying the newspaper of your choice.
WALSHAM LE WILLOWS, SUFFOLK
Sir: My son, shopping at Comet on my behalf, was required to fill in a form including his name and address. For title, he was asked to tick Mr, Mrs, Ms or Other. Being a Dr, he ticked Other. He now knows what junk-mailers have access to Comet's address list by those items which come addressed to "Other P D Nye".
Watch your language
Sir: I take it that in the current climate of courtesy towards all religious traditions, no one would dream of using the names of the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH), Moses, the Buddha or Guru Nanak as exclamations or swear-words, especially in a quality newspaper. Yet on two occasions a week apart (31 August and 7 September) Cooper Brown has used the name of Jesus Christ in precisely this way. Why is this deemed to be more acceptable?
REVD EAMONN RODGERS
Sir: It depresses me that so many of your readers eat Marmite on their toast. The proper place for Marmite is on fried bread, with a hard fried egg on top. Toast, which is altogether a more dainty food, should not be adulterated with Marmite. Gentleman's relish is the thing to use, thinly spread.
MICHAEL K BALDWIN
SITTINGBOURNE, KENTReuse content