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Letters: Gibraltar’s British history

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, 15 August, 2013

Trevor Pateman writes (letter, 14 August) that the people of Gibraltar want to be what your headline calls “semi-British” and would never choose to be British if subject to mainland UK laws and tax. He should get his facts straight: our democratically elected government supported exactly that until Roy Hattersley vetoed the idea in 1976.

We are British, have been for 300 years and are determined to remain so. This determination has persisted not only through the good times, but also the bad: the evacuation of our population during the Second World War to facilitate the war effort (some weren’t allowed to return until 1951), and the blockade of 1969 to 1985, which wasn’t just economically destructive, it separated families and cut us off from the outside world.

There is a lot of history to our 309-year-old link with the UK. Please don’t pretend it’s just a matter of convenience.

Matthew Pallas, Gibraltar


Are Mr Cameron and Mr Hague aware that King Juan Carlos of Spain has no beard?

Simon G Gosden, Rayleigh, Essex


Blow away the Israeli smoke screen

I must disagree with Robert Fisk, who criticises John Kerry for telling the Palestinians an inconvenient truth, that they must strive for a rapid peace settlement before Israel steals more land (14 August).

The desperation of the Israeli administration to scupper these talks is surely a sign that Mr Abbas should be seen to strive to remove all obstacles to an agreement. A good tactic would be to offer the settlers Palestinian citizenship if they wish to stay on their hilltops.

At the very worst some of the smoke screen behind which Israel operates will be dispelled when it becomes apparent that Netanyahu cannot sign a treaty which leaves the Palestinians with any part of East Jerusalem or the West Bank.

F B Dickens, Birmingham


Thanks to Nigel Kennedy, and his recent performance of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” at the Proms, the public misconception that all Palestinians are terrorists, carefully nurtured by the Israel lobby over several decades, has been squarely knocked on the head.

Thank you Mr Kennedy for bringing these talented young musicians to London.

Jane Jewell, San Rafael, California, USA


House price bubble

The conclusion in your leading article of 14 August that putting money into lending rather than into building more houses will simply lead to another price bubble is obviously correct and must be apparent to all, so one must ask: why would the Government risk this and why are Labour not fighting it tooth and nail?

Apart from the obvious possibility of buying votes with a feelgood factor based on the myth that house price increases must be for the good of all, including the homeless, one has to ask whether there is a longer-term objective, say in 2017-18, that both parties have identified.

Given the static or shrinking tax base in the UK and the obsession with maintaining low income-tax rates, could it be that both parties see the possibility of applying capital gains tax on sale of all houses including a family’s principal residence as a way to increase revenue while leaving income tax rates unchanged? If this is the case then large increases in prices – and 17 per cent over the next three years has been predicted – could provide the Government with a useful income. 

Before you dismiss this as not possible, I believe that in Canada, the home of the current Governor of the Bank of England, this already happens.

John Simpson, Ross on Wye, Herefordshire


The article “It’s only rock’n’roll – but £300 is still ‘too cheap’ for a Stones ticket” (14 August) raised some interesting issues. However, one thing struck me about the new “oak tree” stage that was mentioned.

It said that the Stones managed to play at a record volume after the new stage was pointed away from Mayfair’s luxury apartments because of noise complaints in the past. Perhaps the stage should actually be pointed at Mayfair, and then as property prices tumble the revolution can begin.

Martin Sandaver, Hay-On-Wye, Herefordshire


Religions of ‘peace’

Christianity may have been founded by a “peace-loving anti-authoritarian ascetic” (letter, 14 August), but that ascetic carried with him the punitive personal legal code allegedly created by Moses, and was bolstered by the warlike Old Testament books of Kings and Chronicles, which would be used by his successors to justify slaughter and murder. 

Christ may have been pacific, but the Emperor Theodosius (379-395) was memorable for persecuting the pagans and imposing one form of faith on all citizens (thereby creating the notion of “heresy”), and Justinian (527-565) fought extensive wars to crush and silence these “heretics”. Christianity had proved itself to be a sufficiently violent model by the time that Mohamed appeared. He needed to learn little.

When European Christian successors, still semi-barbarian, assaulted the Middle East in the crusades, and when they launched themselves crushingly on the pagan and harmless Lithuanians, they again showed that the followers of the pale martyr of Palestine could be as violent and greedy for control and territory as any conquering army in world history.

Christ may have been a man of peace, but the religion he founded became (and remained) a faith steeped in blood.

Christopher Walker, London W14


Cooking at the embassy

Does Oliver Wright (Inside Whitehall, 30 July) really think that an embassy chef cooks exclusively for the ambassador, family and residence staff? Or is he being snide just for the sake of it? 

Who does he suppose cooks for the official guests (ministers, MPs, military top brass, business leaders, artists, journalists, maybe even Mr Cleversticks Wright, you name it) whom embassies are expected to entertain in pursuit of the whole wide range of British interests? The ambassador perhaps? Or his wife?

I used once to be an ambassador, and one year (admittedly the worst, but others ran it close) we entertained over 5,000 people in our medium-sized embassy. I know my wife, who was pretty busy starting a programme to do something about the plight of post-communist disabled “orphans”, didn’t really have the time to do the cooking, or the inclination, come to that. And I dare say Mrs Wright wouldn’t either, if she was the wife of the ambassador in Santiago, who he seems to think is so grossly over-cosseted.

If the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is really going to get a chef in Santiago for £12,000 a year, they will be doing pretty well. You can bet your bottom dollar that the French, German and American embassies will be paying double that.

Richard Thomas, Winchelsea, East Sussex


The Prince and the ministers

While not wholly disagreeing with Matthew Norman’s column (14 August), I feel obliged to point out that the Prince’s Trust has probably done more good for disaffected youngsters than any number of ministerial pronouncements. Prince Charles’s concern about issues like climate change started long before it became the received wisdom of the age, and his views on architecture are probably more in tune with public opinion than those of his critics.

I suspect the real nincompoop in the room in most of these meetings with ministers is not the thoughtful upper-crust chap in the carefully mended suit ... and I’d certainly sooner find myself sitting next to the him on the bus than any number of political or journalistic reptiles of the current generation.

R S Foster, Sheffield