Letters: Football louts

Fear on the streets of a city invaded by drunken football louts
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Sir: I felt frightened for my safety early on Wednesday evening while walking through Manchester city centre to get to and from my apartment building. There were thousands of louts (aka football fans) on the streets and all here by kind invitation of our very own Labour-controlled City Council.

There were broken glass bottles everywhere, not to mention gangs of so-called football fans charging round the public areas of our city, already completely inebriated but still with dozens more cans of lager yet to drink.

Heading down one street, I ended up having to turn back for fear of my personal safety, with gangs of drunken men jumping up and down on the tops of bus shelters, glass bottles being thrown across the road and men openly urinating in the street, on pavements, against walls, trees and in one case virtually in the middle of the road.

There were mums with children wondering which way to go to avoid being embroiled in any possible trouble.

When I spoke to the police, they admitted that drinking on the streets is not allowed but that they had no chance of enforcing the law as there weren't enough of them against 100,000, even if the entire police force were out.

What on earth was Manchester City Council thinking when they decided to invite such numbers to our already busy city? They did say it would bring money into our local economy, but I am left wondering what the costs to our city will be from damage caused, clearing up and extra policing, not to mention damage done to residents' sense of security.

Matthew J Sephton


Radical ideas on care for the old

Sir: The Prime Minister has announced that the Government is to review the social care funding regime in order to make it "fairer". This worthy objective is long overdue. As our population lives longer, there will be more and more of us in need of care in our advancing years. The present system is unfair, inconsistent, difficult to understand and relatively easy to abuse.

Many people today find themselves ineligible for support who would have been eligible some years ago. The goalposts are constantly being moved in order to ensure that only the very frailest are eligible for funding to go into a care home. As a consequence, there are many people struggling at home with a poor quality of life because they have no funds and the local authority is not prepared to fund them. A particularly hard-hit group are those suffering with dementia, as many local authorities seem loath to accept the difficulties of supporting people suffering from this condition at home.

How about some radical thinking? Perhaps the Government should go down the Scottish route of asking the taxpayer to fund free personal care, or perhaps they should go a little further and apply the means test for funding to children as well as to the older person themselves. This would be a practical way of dealing with the current loophole whereby many older people are encouraged by their children to divest themselves of their assets some years before they are ever likely to need funded care.

Leon Smith

Chief Executive, Nightingale, London, SW12

Sir: Most older people prefer their own homes to institutional care. More than £132m could be cut from the costs of caring in England if government enabled citizen volunteers to support 500,000 older isolated people in their own homes. Research commissioned by CSV, Help the Aged and the British Red Cross reveals that older people prefer volunteers to paid staff. Unlike most paid staff, volunteers have flexibility to talk and share.

The time has come for government to recognise that services provided by volunteers, far from being second class, are our best hope for a better life for all citizens and certainly offer best value.

Dame Elisabeth Hoodless

Executive director, Community Service Volunteers, London N1

Sir: The Government is looking for ways to improve care of the elderly, while limiting the escalating costs. I believe that family carers hold the key. Currently these carers receive little support, financial or otherwise. No wonder relatives of the elderly are reluctant to take on this role.

If the Government is serious about supporting the elderly to stay in their own homes, it needs to make caring for relatives a more attractive proposition, by providing financial support and decent breaks for carers.

Angela Comer

Clacton-on-Sea, Essex

Sir: Gordon Brown has announced that free care for the elderly English is impossible. Apparently, there just isn't the money available for the little comfortscurrently enjoyed by pensioners in his own back yard.

When he scuttles back to Scotland clutching his generous pension, he will be able to look forward to goodies which the English can only dream about. Free personal care (no need to sell your house), free transport on all buses and trains and a free central heating system in your home, are among the advantages enjoyed by Scotland's pensioners. He will be able to send his children to university safe in the knowledge that they will not be racking up crippling loans. And all funded by the British taxpayers, 85 per cent of whom live in England.

England needs its own Parliament so that this disgraceful exploitation of the people of England, which is condoned by all three main political parties, can be brought to an end.

Anne Palmer

Stapleford Tawney, Essex

Afraid to help the people of Burma

Sir: Your leading article (6 May) following the tragic events in Burma offered the slight hope that, as the result of foreign aid or intervention, some kind of thaw might ensue. That understates the climate of fear which dominates all aspects of life there. As someone who now lives in northern Thailand and writes regularly about the problems there (not least for the refugees who flee mainly to Thailand), I think the worst may yet be about to happen.

The fear is endemic from the top. The generals, some of them aged and sick, live in their $5m ivory towers in the new capital, isolated from life in the now stricken areas. They fear all change and use the 500,000-strong army to control any possibility of change. They use imprisonment, torture, rape, enforced exile and in the case of the country's legitimate leader, house arrest.

Fear at "ground level" follows. Seven years' imprisonment is the norm for publishing something against the regime. Torture,on occasion leading to death, is the norm for people who oppose them – as happened to countless people who tried to revolt alongside the monks last September. People are afraid to talk to foreigners and lack all help, with the army budget reputedly ten times that for education and health.

This is tolerated because of fear among neighbouring countries, who don't want to upset the generals, and lose valuable sources of energy and, in the case of China, sales of the arms they supply to the junta. No pressure is put on the regime.

And now we too are fearful. With only the French and the US mooting the possibility of tackling the disaster forcibly before it develops into genocide. Britain is sitting on the fence, and one understands the logistical nightmare of "invading"' Burma even with the sole purpose of delivering aid. But direct action is now the only option, except to watch people starve and die.

Brian Baxter

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Palestinians want peace with Israel

Sir: There is one incontrovertible fact that Jonathan Hoffman and all Israelis cannot escape ("Barbican's tribute to 1948 accused of demonising Israel", 30 April). Palestinians are not going away. Our dispossession does not fade away because of a 60-year lapse of time. When my father died, he bequeathed his Palestinian legacy to his children. When I die, I will bequeath my Palestinian narrative to my children, and they to theirs and so on until justice is done.

As Israel celebrates its 60th birthday and we mourn our 60th anniversary of the Nakba, I urge all those involved to talk on equal terms. I am still a Palestinian and I want to go home where others have lived since my people were exiled through what can only be called ethnic cleansing.

We can live together in peace. The majority of Palestinians and Israelis are tired of war, tired of prevarication, tired of conflicting narratives. Both Israelis and Palestinians want to live in peace. Why don't we agree that in 60 years from now, we will all join together as Palestinians and Israelis to celebrate 60 years of peace and coexistence. We can do it. Palestinian and Israeli men and women in the street want to do it. Do our leaders have the courage to join us?

Dr F H Mikdadi

Dorchester, Dorset

Sir: James Goldman says: "As a Jew living outside Israel, I think it is important we have somewhere safe to go the next time someone tries to exterminate us" (letter, 14 May).

So Mr Goldman, currently living comfortably in law-abiding, democratic Britain, believes that Palestinians, ethnically cleansed from their land, should stay as refugees while Israel keeps their land, and that Israel should keep and settle in all land gained since 1947, despite this being against the Geneva Conventions. Then if he and his co-religionists are persecuted they can go to a place where Jews have persecuted a people to make space for them; he seems indifferent to the immorality of this concept.

Yet he then complains that Hamas programmes its children to hate the Jews. But is it not natural for a people to detest the people who have kept them under occupation for 40 years while it steals their land? Furthermore, this detestation would surely, extend to those in the Diaspora who condone these unjust actions by Israel.

William Garrett

Harrow, Middlesex

Too many wealthy people in the world

Sir; Johann Hari doesn't need to be so depressed ("Are there just too many people in the world?", 15 May). Global population is still increasing, but at a diminishing rate.

Populations tend to regulate their fertility rates in response to falls in mortality after a couple of generations (I paraphrase a whole literature about the "demographic shift"). In fact many first-world populations would be falling if it were not for net immigration.

The bigger issue now, which hangs over development economics, is the number of people trying to live first-world lifestyles like you and I. That is when the burden on the planet suddenly becomes intolerable, when another billion people become fully paid-up members of the consumer society.

Peter West

Datchet, Windsor and Maidenhead

Sir: The article "The only ones: how China's single-child policy doubled the agony of parents" (15 May) seems to me the height of editorial irresponsibility.

The headline suggests that in a world struggling with the effects of man-induced climate change, with new imbalances in food distribution, and in what remains a poor country with a burgeoning population, parents should have been allowed more children "just in case" (there were, for example, a devastating earthquake). Would it be preferable that China housed two billion people, with a significant percentage of them starving?

There is simply no reason to value the loss of an only child more than the loss of any other child – or any other person.

Roy W Reese


Stuck with a useless home sale pack

Sir: Shortly before the property market became depressed in October 2007, I put my modest three-bedroom house on the market and had to buy my Hips pack.

Four people have viewed the property, no one since the New Year, despite reducing the price. Not one person was interested in the pack or wanted to see it. I am not in a hurry and I am prepared to wait for the property market to pick up, but the Hips pack has a finite life and if my house is unsold I shall have to pay for another later this year.

Accepting that Hips packs were a pointless waste of time and money and getting rid of them would be one very helpful thing that the Government could do to help householders who are currently stuck and unable to sell.

Helen Rawden

Crowland, Lincolnshire


Fiscal policy

Sir: So New Labour now needs to find £2.7bn to pay for screwing up the budget. Simple, scrap ID cards and save £20bn. This will leave enough change to screw up the Olympics.

Barry Tighe

London E11

News from the shed

Sir: I was delighted to see that the shed phenomenon is spreading (Property, 14 May). My writing shed, hidden at the bottom of my parents' orchard, was not so much an escape from the credit crunch as from the world outside the garden. Mine remains without electricity. The winters are spent with blankets and candles, the summer with bikinis and pina-coladas.

Verity Worthington

Kidderminster, Worcestershire

Power outage

Sir: I have every sympathy with David Smith's fears about the ownership of the UK power industry (Letters, 15 May). Unfortunately, this stable door is already wide open and the horse long gone. EdF, bidder for British Energy, already controls about a fifth of the retail power market, while much of our generating and distributing capacity has fallen into overseas hands. Powergen is now E.ON and nPower belongs to RWE, both German-controlled. Scottish Power was recently taken over by Spanish Iberdrola and much of our power-balancing pumped storage capacity is operated by Mitsui (Japanese).

Dr John Etherington

Llanhowell, Pembrokeshire

Wedding march

Sir: I'm glad to hear that Sarah Churchwell "won't be walking up the aisle to the strains of the Hallelujah Chorus" (Opinion, 15 May). As it occurs in the Messiah just after Christ has passed through hell, it wouldn't say much for her courtship.

The Rev Kim Fabricius


Innocent aliens

Sir: A colleague of mine has just pointed out what may well be a theological dilemma regarding the Catholic Church's reported acknowledgment of aliens. If they are not descended from Adam and Eve, are they tainted with original sin?

Robert Smith

Merstham, Surrey