At a time when the world financial and economic system seems to be facing its greatest crisis since the 1930s, I find it incomprehensible that a large proportion of the Conservative Party think the most important issue we face is whether or not we should withdraw from the EU, or hold a referendum on it, which they no doubt hope to win.
Withdrawal from any connection with the European mainland seems to have been a constant theme among a large minority of the population of this country since about 1540, and at times it has been national policy, particularly in the Victorian age, when, after Waterloo, we could afford to turn away from Europe and seek glory elsewhere.
Events in Europe, however, have a habit of bringing us back to reality, almost catastrophically so in the early part of the 20th century. Perhaps the epitome of Euroscepticism was Chamberlain's dismissal of Czechoslovakia as a faraway place of which we knew little. British intervention on the side of France in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 might have prevented both Great Wars.
It seems to me that, in the present parlous state of the world, self-interest should dictate strengthening our links with our European neighbours (whether or not we join the euro), rather than breaking them.
The public petition for a referendum on EU membership (and the supposed public hostility towards the EU) is another demonstration of the power of the tabloid media; the public's attitude towards the EU has been almost entirely shaped by the anti-EU diatribe that appears almost daily in certain newspapers.
These publications are hardly likely to admit that what they really object to are aspects of legislation such as employment law and human rights, which are seen as an obstacle to everincreasing profits for business.
Public support is gained by highlighting apparent attacks on our way of life ("British banger banned by Brussels") and our democracy. And this is the nub of it: while the EU needs to be more accountable and less bureaucratic, we have one of the least representative electoral systems in the free world (our first-past-the-post system is shared by only a few other icons of democracy such as Zimbabwe and Pakistan), where minority governments are the norm.
Is there any difference between policy being "forced" upon us from Brussels and that emanating from Westminster?
Your leading article on the rebellion in Parliament which called for a referendum on Britain's continued membership of the EU ("Another damaging Eurosceptic spasm", 24 October) consisted of a series of weak arguments.
The euro may be in trouble, but the European Union will almost certainly survive, and I cannot see Britain withdrawing without a referendum. Nobody under 54 years old has had an opportunity to have their say on this matter, and even people who are pro-Europe can see that this is undemocratic. Even the Liberal Democrats wanted a referendum.
It is not, as you say, the "Eurosceptic, Little-Englander strand of British opinion" which wants a referendum: two-thirds of the British public do, according to a recent YouGov poll. I am surprised that such a progressive newspaper should reject a democratic measure such as this.
How can it seem reasonable to reject democratic principles? Could it be that it is all too easy to predict the result a referendum on the EU? I don't think it would leave Britain "at the heart of Europe".
If the British public felt as strongly about a referendum on EU membership as many Tory MPs seem to believe, then the Tories would be out of a job and Nigel Farage would be Prime Minister.
Murder of a maddog
I was granted the pleasure of viewing Libya's "democratic" NTC lynch mob commit murder. That is what it was. Well done Cameron, Obama, Sarkozy and Co! Democracy must finally have come to Libya.
Gaddafi was a mad dog; there is no doubt about it. But what happens when you topple this mad dog and replace him with a pack of wolves? A stable, prosperous and pro-western dictatorship has been replaced by a gang of hooligans riddled with Islamists.
By what authority did Nato attack the convoy of vehicles in which Gaddafi and his son were travelling? Their subsequent lynching was a consequence of this attack. How did the UN esolution to protect civilians and maintain a no-fly zone justify this attack and so many like it over the past nine months?
I would like to see journalists asking probing questions about the Nato operation, including trying to ascertain the number of Libyans killed by Nato. The lack of any critical analysis by either the national media or any national politician is as disturbing as the war itself.
Worthing, West Sussex
The UN is, of course, completely right to call for an investigation into the circumstances of Colonel Gaddafi's death. This should be carried out alongside that of each of the individual estimated 30,000 deaths that have occurred among the Libyan people in their struggles to throw off his yoke.
And I suggest the UN carries out an equally through investigation into each of these deaths in strict chronological order, so that no one, even a bloody dictator, be allowed to "jump the queue".
The rebels and Nato claim that their goal was to provide democracy and a free Libya. The majority of free and democratic nations value the presumption of innocence and the rule of law. Killing a person who has not been through the due process in a court of law seems to defeat any claims made by the rebels and Nato. Celebrating an unlawful killing seems to exacerbate this.
The Independent was right to publisha front-page photograph of Gaddafi's lifeless body to show theworld the savagery of his demise. Although a tyrant, he deserved humane treatment, a fair trial, and then the gallows if necessary. However, his barbaric end is a shame on Britain and France. I was optimistic for a future democratic and free Libya. Its birth has already been blighted by the hideous termination of its former ruler.
The insanity of marketing
I needed some loft insulation. I know that it comes in large, tripleroll packs. I wasn't sure whether I would need two or three of them. I resolved initially to buy two, which, in any case, was all I could fit into my car.
I went to the local DIY superstore and perused the options. I was shocked to see that a single tripleroll pack was £33. I collared an assistant and questioned the high price. I was stunned by his response: "“Ah yes, but if you buy onepack, you get three packs free."
Trying hard to remain sane, I asked, "So, one pack is £33, two packs would be £66, three would be £99 but four would only be £33".
"That's correct, sir", he replied.
"But I only want two packs," I said. He thought for a while, then said: "What you could do is buy four packs, then bring two back".
I left with none.
No voice for country people
Report stage of the Public Bodies Bill takes place on 25 October. The Bill proposes the abolition of the Commission for Rural Communities, to be replaced by a Rural Communities Policy Unit within Defra. The post of Rural Advocate ceased last autumn.
Concerns were expressed on both sides during the Bill's earlier stages in the Lords and the Commons that an internal unit will not be well placed to represent challenging issues with ministers. The effect of these measures will be that, for the first time since the days of Lloyd George, there will be no independent voice monitoring the needs of rural communities and communicating issues to the heart of government.
Nonetheless, many small rural communities experience serious disadvantage reflected in fuel poverty, a lack of affordable housing, and poor transport and digital connectivity. In many areas, these needs are worsening. I would urge the Government to consider the advantages of the establishment of a rural adviser, at minimal cost, to provide a true independent voice.
DUCHESS OF RUTLAND
Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire
Biblical rebuke for St Paul’s
Could there be a better illustration of how little the Christian religion has to do with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth than the current fiasco at St Paul's. On the one hand we have the vainglorious pomp of a hypocritical establishment, and, on the other, a small group of people protesting for a fairer society.
Jesus said "You cannot serve God and wealth" (Matt. 6:24) and "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God" (Matt.19:24). He would be sitting with the protesters.
"Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." The cathedral authorities should remember these words from St Paul's epistle to the Hebrews when reviewing their reaction to the protesters.
David Cameron is upset about possibly losing rich donors ("Cameron's fury at plan to curb rich backers", 22 October). Why doesn't he introduce his party to his Big Society, where the party could be staffed and run by unpaid volunteers? If it's a good enough idea to impose on the rest of society (where we are all apparently required to volunteer and not worry paying our mortgages), surely he can lead by example?
Perhaps R S Foster (letters, 18 October) might care to reflect that a major part of the reason "the world is a dangerous place full of people who hate us and want to kill us" is that those "tough kids" he would have us cosy up to frequently behave like bullies. In this respect the antics of Liam Fox, his erstwhile sidekick and their unrepresentative sponsors were counterproductive.
We are well shot of them.
All Scots now
We think Alex Salmond is doing well, with no tuition fees in higher education, defending the NHS and help with employment. The Scottish National Party puts the Tories, the Liberals and especially Labour to shame. We wonder if we could persuade the SNP to annex Yorkshire once they get independence.
CHRIS WOOD, DICK PITT