Letters: Harriet Harman’s poor decision returns

These letters appear in the Friday 28th February edition of the Independent

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If one is an honest person, and one assumes that Harriet Harman is that, one should be careful about the company one keeps.

If the possibility of a legal post appeared at the National Council for Civil Liberties, should not Harriet Harman, as a lawyer, have examined  the affiliations of the NCCL? Due diligence is the modern term.

Accepting a job from a pressure group that gives house room to an organisation like the Paedophile Information Exchange hardly seems to have been a good decision at the time and now returns as an unwelcome guest.

Anthony Eisinger, Buckland, Surrey

As Christian Wolmar writes (“The great British paedophile infiltration campaign”, 27 February). the word “paedophiles” translates literally from the Greek as child-lovers. But there is more than one Greek word for love. The root phil- is non-sexual; a philogynist is an admirer of women, the opposite of misogynist. 

The name of Eros, the Greek god of sexual love, gives us the unambiguous term “paederasts”. If the Paedophile Information Exchange had called itself the Paederasty Information Exchange, the libertarian left might have been less easily infiltrated,

David Crawford, Bickley, Kent

Best way to challenge Uganda gay ban

Dr Michael B Johnson (letter, 26 February) is mistaken to argue that our financial support through the Department for International Development to Uganda be stopped until Uganda lifts its ban on gays.

I have for many years helped to raise funds for youth projects in Uganda and realise that cutting financial support will hurt ordinary people in Uganda and do nothing to end this ban. It will be far more effective if British charities that give to Uganda stress that they support gay rights. Ugandan politicians who then accept the money in their country will be seen to be hypocrites.

Kartar Uppal, West Bromwich, West Midlands

Limits to religious tolerance in Israel

Murray Fink is being a bit disingenuous in his encomium on religious tolerance in Israel (letter, 26 February), as many Israelis have discovered when they attempted to marry a non-Jew, or someone not recognised as Jewish by the Orthodox rabbinate. As an ethnocracy with democratic institutions Israel is a compendium of social and racial paradox that can only vaunt its supposed equality when this is set against the failings and fanaticism of its less than perfect neighbours.

Civil marriage does exist under the Civil Union Law of 2010, but only for those registered as belonging to no religious group at all, while inter-faith marriage is impossible. The confusion and obsession surrounding race, religion and nationality, and the anachronistic historiography of the Israeli establishment ensures that religious freedom remains unequal and inconsistent for many in Israel.

Christopher Dawes, London W11

Allow parents to let a child die

Sympathy and applause are due to Peter John Sipthorp for his letter (27 February) about the life of his son.

Those of us who agree with his views on prolonging life, but who have never been in his unfortunate position, may hesitate to express our opinion because of accusations that we would see it differently if it were our child. It was his child, and he has come out and said that extending John’s life was wrong, not only because of the prolongation of suffering but also because of the cost.

If treatment gives a good experience to the patient whose life is extended, cost should not be a significant consideration. But when parents and professionals are in agreement that it would be humane for a child’s life to be ended, is it reasonable to impose the double whammy of increased suffering to the patient and family and huge expense to society because some people who do not have to deal with the problem believe their views should be pre-eminent?

Susan Alexander, Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire

Ukraine: Russia has a right to be heard

If we are to plot a way forward as regards Russia and the Ukraine, we do not need to return to the stale old cold-war Russophobia that Harold Elletson purveys (Comment, 26 February). Sure, there are some deeply dislikeable aspects to Moscow’s posture today, but to cast it as near-Satanic does no one any good.

Russia has a right to be heard on the matters of eastern Ukraine and the Crimea. The enthusiasm shown for western Ukraine, by US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and others (for no better reason than that the people there are “less foreign” than the easterners), shows a narrow and defensive mentality, when the aim should be to seek out and promote good governance wherever it can be found in the world.

There may be more that is good in western than eastern Ukraine; but there are Russian people in the east, and in the west, despite its aspirational boutique lifestyle, there are fascist remnants of the wartime pro-Hitler regime of Stepan Bandera. To endorse the west and dismiss the east would be crazy. Maybe John Kerry, along with David Cameron and William Hague, have, in their careful wording, got things approximately right.

Christopher Walker, London W14

Here come the green Tories – again

Your second editorial on Wednesday provoked me to check the calendar: no, it’s not 1 April. Just before the last election, the Tories announced “the greenest government ever” and duly forgot all about it when (nearly) elected.

Just before the next election, they make some greenish noises and your leader writer falls over in admiration. Astonishing.

David Gould, Andover, Hampshire

Beware of talking down to the Scots

The Government evidently thinks it has a killer strategy against a Yes vote in Scotland. They are coming at them from several different angles with a carefully planned sequence of ministerial statements on a variety of issues.

It is all designed to counteract Alex Salmond’s effortless if facile confidence in the workability of independence. But as the Tory presence in Scotland is now so weak, there appears to be no one left to point out to Cameron why this could prove highly counter-productive, and why the wily Salmond (who has charisma and political skills unmatched south of the Border) will be looking even more smug than usual.

Those English among us who have lived for any time in Scotland know that if there is one thing really guaranteed to get up Scottish noses it is the English talking down to them; and in this respect I have some sympathy with the Scots. I personally think independence would be a mistake for Scotland, although it would help the Tories’ parliamentary arithmetic at Westminster. But if Cameron wants to drive more people into the Yes lobby, he is going the right way about it.

The UK Government should have kept well out of the debate, letting the Scots make their own judgement about Salmond’s plausibility; they are not children who have to have adult truths laboriously pointed out to them by paternalistic Englishmen.

Gavin Turner, Gunton, Norfolk

Looking at the map you published on 25 February, which located the oil and gas fields in the North Sea, spawned a wicked thought.

We currently live in a sovereign nation recognised by the United Nations as “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”, which comprises four regions, all of which have historically been nations in their own right. Scotland became incorporated over 400 years ago in 1603. The Scottish National Party chooses to ignore this current status, draw the map of international waters as if Scotland were already an independent sovereign state, and assign the mineral wealth within these boundaries as “Scottish oil”. If September’s referendum favours independence, I suggest that the following action be taken by the Shetland Isles Council.

The islands, having been incorporated into Scotland in the late 15th century, largely retain their original Nordic culture and could, quite as legitimately as Scotland, claim a unilateral right to political independence through a plebiscite of their 23,000 inhabitants. (The precedent will have been established).

They too could draw a map of territorial waters according to accepted international principles and claim the mineral rights therein as “Shetland oil”. (The principle will have been established). A favourable vote (the remainder of the Scottish people having been excluded – the principle will have been established) would result in the reassignment of about a third of the “Scottish oil” to the Shetland Islanders, who, with wise exploitation and investment of this asset, should enjoy a work- and stress-free life in perpetuity.

John Harvey, Bromyard, Herefordshire

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