Letters: First day as the new Pope

 

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These letters are published in the Saturday 16 March 2013 edition of The Independent

I wonder if the new Pope will accept that in Europe, in our country at least, our secular society is far more Christian in terms of compassion and tolerance than is the Church. Gays now have equality, women are no longer subjugated and can plan their families, and the innocent children of our unmarried mothers no longer have to grow up with the stigma of illegitimacy blighting their lives. Our 21st century is in need of far more modern rules than those drawn up by elderly tribesmen so long ago.

Enid Mavor, By email

 

It was interesting to read of the new Pontiff, Francis, abandoning the official limousine to travel with his fellow cardinals by coach. Perhaps our politicians and royals should follow this example, especially during this time of austerity.

Tim Mickleburgh, Grimsby

 

I feel it’s time the Vatican became more concerned about the environment and stopped spewing out smoke into the atmosphere when they elect a new pope.

Ivor yeloff, Norwich

 

One day into the job and the poor Pope has all the usual pundits sorting him out. A Jesuit: well, keep your friends close, etc. Old: won’t last long enough to do anything radical. Gets on the bus to work: good grief, pretty awful, he might actually meet people not rich and famous, shouldn’t be allowed. Give the old boy a chance, he seems quite nice to me, so far.

Mary Hodgson, Coventry

 

The identity of the new Pope took me by surprise. I was convinced it would be Tony Blair.

Gareth Lloyd-Jones, Bristol

 

I think it confusing to a British audience to call Pope Francis a conservative. He does not think the poor are all scroungers who need to be taught a lesson. What sort of a conservative is that?

Derek McMillan, West Sussex

 

Now that Francis has succeeded Benedict in the papacy, may visitors to the Vatican expect soon to find a new dining outlet in the name of Frankie and Benny?

Gerald Sinstadt, Stoke-on-Trent

 

Shipbuilding must be kept alive in the UK

Your debate about the foreign aid budget (Report, 11 March) will be welcomed, particularly by those who feel government spending on foreign aid is too high. Those who feel that international development is a matter for private charity will perhaps find helpful the remarks of the Prime Minister last month, as to how foreign aid might be used to ease the squeeze on defence spending. Our foreign aid budget could easily help friendly foreign states and help our country at the same time.

Those concerned about defence equipment being used by foreign powers against their own people will surely have no concern about small naval vessels in that regard. Any nation with a coastline and major rivers will require some patrol vessels or corvettes for a range of peaceful regulatory purposes, such as coast guarding, fishery protection, anti-piracy and anti-narcotics patrols, while promoting seamanship training and the skills of navigation.

The UK needs to keep its naval shipbuilding capacity alive and productive, and orders for British shipyards mean jobs. Were some of the £10bn aid budget used to build small ships that were gifted to overseas navies, with some funding for personnel, training and maintenance, there would be a win-win result for all involved. For the sake of all nations, the seas need to be policed and surveyed and such work is helpful to the UK, particularly as a maritime trading nation. In some cases such gifted vessels, with trained personnel, could help reduce the pressure on the Royal Navy and others to provide a ship in key ocean trouble spots or in sea areas requiring new surveys.

Allied to this, the use of aid for building small ports, with British expertise, in places where fishermen currently use a beach would encourage an expansion in trade. A better road network to the port would improve infrastructure which, in turn, helps governance and law and order. British-built patrol boats, policing the port and coastal waters, would then have their operating bases.

Rear-Admiral Richard Hill; Rear-Admiral Jeremy Larken DSO (Chief Executive, OCTO); Commodore Peter Wykeham-Martin RN; Captain Alan Hensher RN; Commander Sharkey MacCartan-Ward DSC AFC RN; Commander Gerry Northwood RN (COO, Gulf of Aden Group Transits); Lieutenant-Commander Mike Critchley RN (publisher, Warship World magazine);  Lieutenant-Commander Lester May RN; Major David Jeremy; Sally Mustoe

We are not all in  it together...

Alan Cooper raises the question of who pays for childcare, and cites the example of how it is done in Denmark (10 March). As I understand it, civilisation is about a community or society clubbing together to look after the needs of the whole of that society, and childcare can just be one part of that; and a civilised society needs taxes.

Denmark probably represents the zenith of what is achievable in a civilised society, whereas the American Republican Tea Party movement is the nadir. Denmark succeeds probably because there is a much greater awareness of “we’re all in it together” than in America; this may be due to Denmark’s more egalitarian system of political representation.

In the same issue, you report about Ray Winstone objecting to paying tax to educate other people’s children. Unfortunately, in the UK, selfishness seems to be becoming the norm: there are many examples, and the present Government appears to be encouraging them – from the exorbitant bonus culture for the rich to cuts in benefits to the poor on the other.

It’s all very well for IDS to say that children should be cared for by parents going out to work, but that only works if there are enough jobs. We are certainly not “all in it together”.

Ian K Watson, Carlisle

Brave women

I was appreciating Matthew Norman’s piece (13 March) regretting Archbishop Welby’s backtracking until I reached this: “I urge him to grow a new and bigger pair under his nightie.”

This throwaway sexist comment is astonishing. Has Mr Norman never heard of courageous, outspoken women, like Emmeline Pankhurst or Wangari Maathai? Or does he perhaps think that to be brave, we women have to be awash with testosterone?

Merry Cross, Earley, Reading

Useless advice from useful idiots

Demos suggests that people who are members of gyms and receive itemised till receipts from supermarkets should jump the queue for NHS treatment. What about people who keep fit by walking or gardening, and buy their five-a-day from their local greengrocer?

George MacDonald Ross, Leeds

 

A side effect of the reported proposal from Demos (12 March) would be to facilitate the entry of private providers into elective surgery by reducing the need to cater for higher risk patients. Was this intentional or was it an instance of a “centre-left think tank” (in your words) acting as “useful idiots” (in Lenin’s words)?

Donald Roy, London SW15

Stop the hospital beds sell-off

James Paton wonders why the public is scared of privatisation of the NHS (15 March).

I wonder why profits from our health needs should go to private health shareholders rather than be ploughed back into the NHS.

At our local hospital, which is privatising several of its health services, staff have to reapply for jobs on far worse conditions. Buildings are being sold off, beds reduced, patients discharged early and 570 jobs are going.

Currently there are not enough beds in the area. The hospital bed occupancy rate is 94 per cent, well over the 84 per cent recommended level. What if there were an accident at the Arsenal or a mass flu epidemic. Where would patients go?

Privatisation and government health policy and cuts are putting our health in danger. That is why today, thousands and thousands of patients and staff – the Whittington community – will be marching from Highbury Corner to the Whittington Hospital to say stop the sell-off of our buildings, beds and jobs. Hands off our hospital and hands off the NHS. The NHS is not for sale!

Shirley Franklin, Chair of Defend the Whittington Coalition, London N19

Call to arms

So David Cameron is pressing other EU leaders to arm the Syrian rebels (15 March).

Given the chaos which the UK has left or is leaving in its wake in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, he should have the decency this time to let taxpayers in on his plan.

What endgame does he envisage? Who are the “moderate” rebels and what are their social, political and economic goals? How will Cameron keep his rocket launchers and artillery out of the hands of the “extremists”? Put a “Property of Dave” label on them? Given that these extremists have no problem getting all the arms they want, couldn’t he have a word with his friends in the apparently acceptable regimes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar?

Our Prime Minister has a duty to give some kind of explanation to the taxpayers who foot the bill (and the voters who foot the passive moral responsibility) for yet another lavish outlay of other people’s money on violent intervention abroad.

Peter McKenna, Liverpool

Cheaper drink

I am a person on pension credit. Having a drink is one of life’s pleasures for me, but it is a struggle to find it at a price I can afford. Now po-faced, nannying Labour roundheads want to make it more expensive than it already is!

Pete Day, Doncaster

Higgs and God

Please, please stop referring to the Higgs boson as “the God particle”. Science and religion have nothing to do with each other.

Colin Jones, Bedford

Poor deer

Brian Bennett argues that we should cull deer to reduce the risk of tick bites (15 March). While wet, mild weather has contributed to an increase in tick numbers, the tiny arachnids use many different hosts, most notably the millions of farmed sheep. Singling out deer for blame is inappropriate and smacks of scapegoating.

Kate Fowler, Tonbridge

This one is an old letter here

Having experience of underemployment at both a practical and academic level, I fully endorse Professor Sapsford’s suggestion that the Office for National Statistics should take the measurement of this phenomenon much more seriously (Letter, 1 December).

The International Labour Office has been refining approaches to the measurement of underemployment for many decades, so the ONS would not be starting completely from scratch.

In addition to time-related underemployment, measured by the availability to work longer hours, the ILO also identifies “inadequate employment situations” where individuals are working at lower productivity levels than they wish to achieve. This may arise, for example, because they are in jobs that do not fully utilise their existing skills, usually resulting in low pay.

This type of underemployment is completely missing from our current measures of spare capacity in the economy.

Nigel Wilkins, London, SW7

Alcohol pricing

I am a person on pension credit, Having a drink is one of life’s pleasures for me, but is a struggle to find it at a price I can afford. Now po-faced, nannying Labour roundheads want to make it more expensive than it already is!

Pete Day, Doncaster

God particle

Please, please stop referring to the Higgs boson as “the God particle”. Science and religion have nothing to do with each other.

Colin Jones, Bedford

Tick bites

Brian Bennett argues that we should cull deer to reduce the risk of tick bites (Letters, 15 March). While wet, mild weather has contributed to an increase in tick numbers, the tiny arachnids use many different hosts, most notably the millions of farmed sheep. Singling out deer for blame is inappropriate and smacks of scapegoating.

Kate Fowler, Animal Aid, Tonbridge

Born to the job

Any effective MP who get elected as Prime Minister, usually grows into the job. Cameron flounced in with the assumption he bas born to the job and, consequently, has proved to be incapable of learning anything.

Martin London, Henllan, Denbighshire

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