Full marks again to The Independent for bringing to the public an issue which for too long has remained behind closed doors (“She was raped as a virgin ...”, 11 June). For the protection of the largely young women who are victims of forced marriage, this is one taboo which must not remain intact.
But while Jasvinder Sanghera and others are right that this case is an important landmark, UK laws alone will not end this problem. Your report was right to highlight that this practice is by its nature a global problem; if we are to end early and forced marriage, the solution lies in the village halls and classrooms of Asia and Africa, not simply in the courtrooms of the UK.
It’s through working with girls and young women around the world, empowering and supporting them to know their rights and to challenge harmful practices, that we will end this global scourge. Invest now in this sort of work, and in 50 or 60 years we may be able to reflect on the last such case, not the first.
Chief Executive, Plan UK, London EC1
Jasvinder Sanghera fails to mention that making forced marriage a criminal act forces women who are forced into marriage in this country by their own families think twice about reporting it. They do not want to criminalise people they love.
I suspect the number of people reporting forced marriage this year will fall because of this dilemma.
West Bromwich, West Midlands
Reasons to be happy with a tiny pay rise
My wife and I both work in the public sector. For the past six years, our annual pay rise has been 1 per cent, accompanied by finger-wagging lectures that:
a) In an era of austerity and deficit reduction, there is no money for public-sector pay rises.
b) We should be grateful that we still have jobs when so many other people are being made redundant.
c) We are still better off than many workers in the private sector.
d) There are no problems with recruitment; vacancies are always easily filled, and so the level of pay is clearly not a deterrent to those who want to work in the public sector.
e) We knew what the pay was when we started our jobs, and if we are not happy with the pay now, we should look for something else, or shut up.
f) The job should be a reward in itself; serving the public is a vocation, and should not be viewed in monetary terms.
Of course, few MPs will accept such strictures being applied to them in relation to their 10 per cent rise.
Labour returns to Blairism
Your editorial “Why Labour lost” (8 June), which praises the post-election self-immolation of the party on the bonfire of Blairism, is timely. It confirms that you can no longer be described as “left-leaning”.
The return to Blairism will be a disaster, not only for the Labour Party, which you accuse, hilariously, of “banging on” about food banks, zero hours contracts and the living wage, but also for the victims of all these policies.
I have been involved in various groups campaigning for a more egalitarian society, and the majority of people I canvassed or petitioned on the streets regarding these matters were supportive.
The various leadership candidates have cynically disowned Ed Miliband for refusing to bow down completely to the right-wing consensus, and have prescribed a wafer-thin gap between Tory and Labour policies. That attitude, and your editorial, will further alienate voters, who regard so many politicians as lily-livered opportunists.
Labour will never win by adopting Tory policies. The Tories will always be more convincingly reactionary and ruthless.
Market Drayton, Shropshire
Half a century ago the Swedish Social Democrats were in disarray. They had the wit then to appoint a group, chaired by the future Nobel prizewinner Alva Myrdal, to rethink their values and what these values meant for policy and action.
Their report, Towards Equality, was a magnificent across-the-board exploration of what social democracy meant. We’ve been waiitng a long time here for a similar clarion call to fire the imagination of radical liberally minded people. A ragbag of vouchers, special offers and electoral Green Shield stamps just won’t do.
So Labour voters lacked conviction, according to Harriet Harman. Do we know what proportion of Tory voters were any different? Speaking for myself, I reluctantly voted Tory, not because I trust them but because I thought the alternatives were even worse. Was I the only one?
Only realistic coalition
I could not help thinking of the mote and beam when I read Gerald Bell’s answer (letter, 11 June) to Tony Somers’ justification for the recent coalition.
Labour plus Lib Dems would indeed have given that combination nine more seats than the Tories on their own, but not a majority in the Commons. A Labour/Lib Dem coalition would have had to form a minority government, which would not have provided the stable government the country so desperately needed. The only realistic coalition was the one we got.
Keighley, West Yorkshire
A network of UK airports
Your article warning that Heathrow will be forced to cut UK routes (8 June) states that Gatwick could become a domestic challenger to Heathrow should it be granted a second runway. This misses the point that Gatwick already serves more UK destinations than Heathrow today.
Where Heathrow has been cutting back on its domestic routes, Gatwick is supporting the growth of a competitive system of UK airports, a network of airports that enjoys not only strong connections to London but also more direct international connections from across the UK.
The choice facing the UK is stark: expand Heathrow to create an expensive London monopoly and constrain the growth of other UK airports, or expand Gatwick and foster a competitive network allowing passengers to increasingly fly direct from their local airport.
The Airports Commission’s own analysis has shown that Gatwick expansion is best for competition. This means lower fares, better service, more flights and more choice for passengers across the UK.
CEO Gatwick Airport
Isis and the drama of killing
In his reflection on ethical issues Will Gore notes that “Isis glories in the drama of killing” (8 June). Because of this it has sometimes been presented as some kind of aberrational death cult alien to the true spirit of Islam.
This is far from being the case and reflects the problem the West has in understanding the world of Islam, which has an utterly different mindset.
To this way of thinking Muhammad’s own time was the golden age of Islam and normative for all ages to come: its apocalypticism represented the end of history. According to the hadith, Muhammad is credited with warning that future generations would always be tempted to fall away from the pristine moment of foundation.
Thus it is the task of every mujaddid/leader to redress the situation by destroying the corrupting influences of “modernity”. This is the normative pattern of Islamic “renewal” across the centuries, from Almoravids and Wahhabites to Isis, with brutality as the necessary means of “restoration”.
This millenarian mindset was once also common in Europe, but is now largely discarded in favour of one of progressive change which recognises individual human rights. Until this radical difference is confronted in Islam and changed, the drama of butchery as a legitimate means to intimidate infidels will continue.
No storm in my tea cups
You reported that French diplomats expressed dissatisfaction about being offered tea and biscuits at a recent meeting I had (8 June).
No comment or complaint was made whatsoever at any point by anyone in the delegation about the refreshments. In fact, the meeting was useful, constructive and interesting. The allegations in the press about such a complaint being made are ridiculous.
I trust this puts the record straight.
Hilary Benn MP
Shadow Foreign Secretary
House of Commons
Britain’s vicious little bird
Surely the subheading of your article (11 June) on “Britain’s national bird”, the robin, should read, “It’s aggressive, vicious, and [not “but”] peculiarly British.”