Letters: Hamza - Queen speaks for many


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The Independent Online

Are we really to believe that the "terribly meticulous" BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner accidentally let slip the Queen's concerns about the radical Islamist cleric Abu Hamza on the Today programme? A great many citizens will be pleased to learn that the Queen feels as they do about this odious man and will applaud Her Majesty's intervention.

Mike Stroud


In 1911 George V was privately telling ministers he thought that some of the dukes were being "very mean" in their opposition to the Parliament Bill. Similarly in 1946 his son advised the Labour Government against too hasty an implementation of their programme of nationalisation. Both monarchs were acting in a public-spirited, uncontroversial way. So I have no problem with the Queen discussing Hamza with the Home Secretary. But should she have told Gardner?

Robert Davies

London SE3

Another stupid storm in the republican teacup. Just as the Queen was once entitled to convey Commonwealth governments' concerns about Rhodesia, so she is now justified in privately expressing her subjects' anxieties about foreign terrorism on UK soil. The monarch has no power to interfere in government, but does have the duty to uphold the laws the realm, and every right to question, advise and warn ministers about their enforcement.

David Ashton

Sheringham, Norfolk

Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan are both British citizens, born, raised, educated here and have paid tax in the UK ("The extradition that changes the game", 26 September). Their alleged offences took place in the UK, so their trial should be held here. The British justice system is fully competent in prosecuting our citizens, therefore what is the need of outsourcing justice to the US?

Mahfuja Ahmed

London SW9

Resistance to cuts would be futile and cruel

Owen Jones's call to councillors to "resist the cuts" (24 September) sounds attractive, but his call for councillors to ignore the fact they have less money to spend won't work.

In the 1980s Ted Knight led Lambeth Council to catastrophe when he refused to implement government cuts. The debts he ran up were so vast we're still paying them off today – at a cost of over £20m a year. That's money we would be spending to protect public services if Knight hadn't wrecked the council's finances all those years ago.

In the end services were cut much harder than they needed to be thanks to Knight's debts – and the people who suffered were frail older people, children in care, and the disabled. Knight's irresponsibility led not only to mountains of debt, but to fraud, service failure and incompetence on a breathtaking scale. Knight turned himself into a cuts martyr by martyring the people he claimed to be defending. Labour must never make that mistake again. 

Labour councillors oppose the Government's unfair cuts because they fall hardest on the poorest. We must protest against this and we must highlight examples of the misery this causes. But we must also find practical ways to limit the pain.

Anything else is an abdication of our responsibility to the people who elected us to defend them in the face of a feckless government that would love for us to repeat the mistakes of the 1980s so they could use Labour's failures locally to beat Labour nationally.

What Jones is recommending would simply prolong the life of this wretched Government and the misery it is causing. 

Councillor Steve Reed

Leader of Lambeth Council

London SW2

Owen Jones's call to Labour and Green councillors to join the Anti-Cuts Alliance in standing up against Government-imposed cuts in local authorities is akin to asking them to join Canute in commanding the tide to retreat.

The Anti-Cuts campaign not only uses inaccurate information to scare people into joining it (as with its reference to Bristol's care-home reforms), but it is resolutely blind to the new world we live in: a world where we face an ageing population, more people with disabilities and a widening gap in social equalities. As with climate change, we have to adapt to new ways of thinking.

Parties need to work together in times of crisis rather than swing wildly between extremes. Reasoned debate based on clear evidence is how to tackle the needs of society fairly in a new age, not an emotional harking back to old ways that no longer work.

Councillor Glenise Morgan (Lib Dem)

Executive Member for Care and Health, Bristol City Council

Lebedev charge is down to politics

It's hard to argue with Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev's view that the decision by Russian authorities to charge Alexander with hooliganism and the threat of a five-year jail term is politically motivated (report, 27 September).

Alexander Lebedev's punch-up with property tycoon Sergei Polonsky during a televised debate was more comical than criminal, and the type of spontaneous scene most reality-TV producers would die for. The only logical conclusion is that Mr Lebedev's predicament is down to his anti-corruption stand in his homeland, his criticism of the Putin regime and his co-ownership (with Mikhail Gorbachev) of the courageously campaigning investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

There was additional irony in Alexander Lebedev facing prosecution under Article 213 of the Russian criminal code, the same one employed to sentence the Pussy Riot punk protesters to a two-year prison term for their anti-Putin performance. Doubtless Alexander Lebedev's strong defence of Pussy Riot's right to protest and his personal offer to stand bail for the trio didn't play well with those behind the charge now levied against him.

Paul Connew

St Albans, Hertfordshire

Joint effort to cure Alzheimer's

As Jeremy Laurance notes ("Drug giants give up on Alzheimer's Cure", 19 September), neuroscience is a highly complex and costly area of research. An estimated 26 million people worldwide are living with Alzheimer's and this is expected to rise rapidly.

Although discovering new therapies for diseases of the brain remains a daunting challenge, there is reason to be hopeful. Significant progress has been made in our understanding, driven by technological advances in the fields of molecular and cellular neurobiology, genetics, neuro-imaging and biomarker development.

At AstraZeneca we remain fully committed to neuroscience research. We have a bold new approach designed to access the latest advances of the biotechnology and academic worlds, and bring them together with our scientific, commercial and geographic reach. Recognising that no one company or research body will ever be able to make the seismic shifts required to solve these complex diseases within their own four walls, we are looking to the power of collaboration and partnership.

A recent example of this is the newly established "A5 Alliance" that aims to identify new therapeutics, and ultimately prevent or reverse the mechanisms responsible for Alzheimer's disease.

Given the recent late-stage development failures in Alzheimer's disease, I have even less doubt that we need to work differently. It is highly unlikely that any single group is going to crack the neuroscience challenge in isolation.

Menelas Pangalos

Executive Vice-President, Innovative Medicines, AstraZeneca

London W2

You are right to highlight the long-term commitment needed to research Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. We should not, however, be focusing solely on drug development. Research can also help people living with dementia and their carers by looking at new approaches to care and support.

One example is a study funded by the Alzheimer's Society that has led to the development of a new approach to care, to reduce the excessive and inappropriate use of anti-psychotic drugs. As a result, people can live without a "chemical cosh" that can destroy quality of life. We must invest more in research for the benefit of people with dementia today, while we fight for a cure for tomorrow.

Jeremy Hughes

Chief Executive, Alzheimer's Society, London E1

In brief...

Clegg at mercy of hostile media

Nick Clegg's main problem (Mary Ann Sieghart, 26 September) is that his voice is only heard via soundbites excerpted by the overwhelmingly hostile media. And those who pour scorn on the Lib Dems for going into coalition with the Tories (Letters, 26 September) should remember how the great British public voted in the last election.

Penelope Murray

Banbury, Oxfordshire

As a Liberal and Lib Dem party member since 1946 I remember the days when my party polled 5 per cent in a general election and had only six MPs. I was not deterred by prophecies of imminent electoral extinction made by Labour and Tory supporters then, and have no doubt that similar wish-fulfilling predictions by correspondents featured recently in The Independent will also be confounded.

Dr Robert Heys


No profit

You report, in reference to the New College of the Humanities, that "between 20 and 30 demonstrators opposed to the university's Ivy League-style for-profit approach to education held up placards denouncing AC Grayling and chanted slogans calling for the closure of the university" (25 September). In what way can a "for-profit approach to education" be described as "Ivy League-style"? All eight members of the League are long established as non-profit institutions.

Christopher Tyson

Queen Mary University of London

A pleb's word

Apparently, Cameron believed Mitchell as he looked Cameron in the eye and said he did not utter those words. Did Cameron give the policeman concerned the opportunity to look him in the eye and say that he had? So there we have it, the word of a gentlemen, so no need to ask the pleb.

Tom Simpson


Eton shamed

How can years of the most expensive classical education at Eton and Oxford leave David Cameron unable to translate "Magna Carta" (report, 27 September)? Failing institutions – Gove should close them down.

Gavin Vinson

London N10