Letters: How to lure Brand’s revolutionaries to the polls

These letters appear in the 21 October issue of The Independent

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Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (20 October) is probably right that Russell Brand is a “dilettante”. But he challenges the status quo and stands up for those who are on its sharp end, like the young mothers in Newham. 

So he strikes a chord with tens of thousands of young – and older – people. Does anyone think that a book by Ed Miliband, who can’t even bring himself to support strike action by teachers or nurses, would fly off the shelves like Revolution is doing?

Alibhai-Brown is appalled that Brand won’t vote. Yet we all know that millions will abstain in the general election next year. Why? Because there is nothing to choose between the policies of three, now four, pro-big-business parties.

We need a party for the men and women who aren’t part of the corporate elite, a party for trade unionists, NHS users, pensioners, the low-paid, immigrants and young people who need decent jobs and homes. When there’s a real choice, and a chance to make a difference, you’ll get high turnouts, as we saw in Scotland’s referendum. 

Nobody I know is sitting around “awaiting the revolution”. We’re defending services, fighting cuts, striking for a living wage, standing in elections as anti-cuts candidates for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), offering people an alternative. We got 10 per cent in Salford last year. If we had PR we’d have a councillor or two. 

Alibhai-Brown’s “institutional overhaul” of Parliament won’t bring them flocking to the polling stations – but a clear stand and a socialist alternative is like a breath of fresh air for the disenfranchised.

Paul Gerrard

Chair, Salford against Cuts, Manchester

Edward Collier (letter, 17 October) asks: “In what parallel universe is it fair that it takes 33,000 votes to return one Labour MP and 120,000 for a Lib Dem and 285,000 for a Green?” It was the system that delivers this inequity that a large majority of people actually voted for in a referendum.

I personally regret that decision, but I accept that it is the democratic will of our people, expressed in a referendum where every vote was equal.

Pete Rowberry

Saxmundham, Suffolk

 

Freudian slip raises a real question

There is something desperate about Ed Miliband’s outrage over Lord Freud’s case of foot-in-mouth.

He must know that this is not an issue that can be just harrumphed away. As a society, we have to look at the situation honestly. Nobody should be discriminated against, but if we want disabled people to participate in economic activity, we have to recognise that they cannot make the same contribution as an able-bodied person. It’s a big ask to expect an employer to take on a disabled person at the same wage as an able-bodied person.

The solution is for the welfare system to make up the difference. Such a policy would be perfectly acceptable to disabled people, and less of a burden on the Treasury than paying a full disability allowance.

What’s astonishing is that the Government doesn’t seem to see that – and David Cameron couldn’t spot a prime opportunity to steal Ed Miliband’s thunder.

Simon Prentis

Cheltenham

 

A huge concern making billions can reasonably be expected to employ a proportion of disabled people at its own expense. A smaller outfit could be damaged by having an employee who, through no fault of their own, was less than optimally productive; in such a case it could be to the benefit of the firm, the disabled employee and society at large for the taxpayer to contribute towards their payment.

That was possibly the point that Lord Freud was trying to make. But he made it badly, and should not be a spokesman for that reason.

He may, however, have done us all a service in raising the issue of “worth”. It could be said that no one is worth more than, say, 20 times the living wage. But many are paid vastly more than that and it is their worth that needs to be challenged.

Susan Alexander

Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire

The welfare minister claimed some disabled people are not worth the minimum wage of £6.50 an hour and that he’d think about how those unfortunates who might wish to work for £2 an hour might be helped to do so.

A Freudian slip or another Tory “reform” in the offing? The mindset of this divided old political party – the oldest in Europe – is as revolting as it is revealing towards the end of this parliament, no matter how artfully disguised at the beginning.

They’re out of touch, out of time –and out of here soon if there’s to be any fairness at all about politics.

John Haran

Leigh-on-Sea, Essex

 

Theatre of the absurd

I warmly applaud Adrian Hamilton’s article on the current theatrical fashion to rewrite or traduce plays that are part of the European classical canon (15 October). However, he omitted to mention the mauling British dramatists have received at such hands.

In a recent National Theatre production of what was claimed to be Marlowe’s Edward II the audience was greeted with a cast dressed in bomber jackets, all smoking furiously and constantly on mobile phones. Scenes were added that are not in the Marlowe text and much that is was omitted.

The nadir of this production, to me, was the scene where Edward’s court celebrated his Pyrrhic victory over the barons by waving plastic swords and dancing the hokey-cokey accompanied by an electric keyboard player on stage.

I certainly do not wish for museum theatre, but production companies must be more honest with theatre-goers. They should announce that this is Ms X’s or Mr Y’s version of Oedipus, Medea or Edward II and omit the names of Sophocles, Euripides or Marlowe from their publicity. But that might not generate the same ticket sales.

Dr Mick Morris

Hamilton, Lanarkshire

 

For the second time in recent months I have walked out of a London theatre because of a play’s continuous and unnecessary foul language. 

Needless to say I was denied a refund of my ticket price. As I bought my ticket at the box office just before the start of the matinee performance I could not have been aware of the vile content. 

Have other theatre goers also been caught out like this, and is it not time all prospective audiences were warned about such disgusting content? In future I will check before buying tickets, assuming I ever consider risking attending another London theatre venue.

Adrian Appley

Bromley, Kent

 

John Walsh is quite right in advocating the abolition of tiresome theatre intervals (16 October). However, I would request one exception – the Royal Opera House.

Much of the seating at this ludicrously expensive venue is unfit for humans (battery chickens spring to mind) and 30 minutes is about all I can bear on the rare occasions that I find myself being “entertained” there.

David Bracey

Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire

 

Now, the three-day passport

Beverley Southgate (letter, 9 October) lavished well-deserved praise on the Passport Office after receiving her passport five working days after applying.

Who can beat this? I applied for my passport renewal on 6 October and received my new one on 9 October – after three working days! My congratulations to both the Passport Office and the Post Office.

Whatever new brooms, prunings or decapitations were necessary to achieve such high standards of public service efficiency, pray that they may soon be mobilised to thin out the dead wood in our NHS.

Ben Marshall

London N11

 

Housing help for the super-rich

Labour proposes a “mansion tax”. This will tax out middle-class Londoners who bought their houses more than 30 years ago and are now coming into retirement on modest pensions. How will that benefit any housing crisis other than that of the very wealthy wanting central London properties?

When the middle classes got driven out of Manhattan in the 1980s it became a ghetto for the super-rich and a once thriving and diverse cultural scene has been reduced to fighting for the best opera seats and to-be-seen-in restaurants.

Stephane Duckett

London SEII

 

Ebola or not, we need Heathrow

Nigel Long (letter, 16 October) moves away from a sensible discussion about Ebola to confuse the debate about Heathrow.

It is not airline and airport operator profits driving the need for growth but the long-term interests of current and future generations who will be affected by a decline in our international standing if Heathrow’s hub status is allowed to decline further.

Simon King

Twickenham, Middlesex

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