Letters: If Labour doesn’t speak for the poor, who will?

These letters appear in the 9 June edition of The Independent

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So Margaret Thatcher can smile smugly from the grave.

When the acting leader of the Labour Party, cheered on by a previously leftish newspaper, can criticise Ed Miliband for raising issues such as food banks, zero-hours contracts and the living wage, we see that the Lady’s most toxic legacy – making selfishness respectable – has spread well beyond her own party and its bastard child Ukip.

It was precisely because of the concerns so contemptuously dismissed in your editorial (“Why Labour lost”, 8 June) that, for the first time in 40 years of being a voter, I spent countless hours and made significant financial contributions in support of the Labour campaign this time.

If the party follows the path advocated by yourselves and its nominated leadership hopefuls, it is difficult to see the point of its continued existence.

Let’s hope Tim Farron can make swift progress in recreating the Liberal Democrats as a credible liberal, left-wing force: there could be no more fitting memorial to the late, very great, Charles Kennedy.

Peter Geall


If, in search of electoral appeal, the Labour Party, as you suggest, stops “banging on about food banks, zero-hours contracts and the living wage”, then who speaks for the poor?

I should like to vote for the party that tries to be the “voice of the dispossessed” even at the expense of those on “40 per cent tax with a newish car”. Is a democracy of the comfortable but whingeing the only kind of state on offer?

Richard Jeffcoat


The real problem for politics is not only that Labour voters lacked conviction, as Harriet Harman has admitted with commendable honesty, but that a large and growing minority distrusts, in varying degrees, the main three political parties.

The House of Commons is no longer even approximately representative of public opinion. Ukip and Green voters have only one MP each, yet they got a substantial number of votes, whereas the SNP with a smaller vote than Ukip won 56 out of 59 Scottish seats with only 50 per cent of Scottish votes.

Without thoroughgoing constitutional reform to ensure much fairer representation the UK could become a bitterly divided society with Parliament voting for the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

Peter Moyes
Brightlingsea, Essex


Harriet Harman’s notion that many Labour Party supporters were relieved when Ed Miliband failed to win the election is a quite delightful piece of absurdity. Vanishingly few people cast a vote for a party while hoping it will not achieve power. It was most unfair of Harman to trespass on Mark Steel’s territory in this way.

Michael McCarthy
London W13


Face up to the social care crisis

The news that adult social care firms are struggling to hire, retain and train staff as a result of cuts to council budgets (4 June), demonstrates the looming care crisis we face.

It is well known that the value of local authority fees has been eroding over many years, as, at best, they rise below inflation. These real-terms decreases have a significant effect on the charity sector, including services provided for older people in the community, especially when we consider that a further £1.1bn is going to be required just to provide the same level of service as last year.

If we are to provide for the care needs of the UK, it is vital is that we acknowledge the true cost of care and the fact that further cuts will mean that those receiving local authority funded services will have to accept lower standards of care and, inevitably, a lower quality of life. Even current levels of funding woefully fail to cover the true cost of high-quality care, and at Nightingale Hammerson we have to fundraise extensively to maintain our standard.

It is clear that the situation is not sustainable. We are heading towards a two-tier society where quality care will become increasingly difficult to deliver in this financial environment. We need to face up to the true cost of care and recognise that compromises will inevitably impact on care.

Leon Smith
Executive Vice President, Nightingale Hammerson
London SW12


Lib Dems betrayed voters on the left

While sharing Ray Love’s sadness (letter, 8 June) at the death of Charles Kennedy, I cannot agree with his condemnation of Labour and Green voters who “punished” the Lib Dems by not voting for them in the last election.

I fall into this category, as I was totally disillusioned by Nick Clegg’s coalition with the Tories. As it was difficult, though not impossible, to form a coalition with Labour, he chose the ministerial limousine with the Tories rather than stay in opposition and oppose a Tory minority government along with the other left-of-centre parties in any proposed legislation which was inimical to the left.

Does Mr Love think the Lib Dems increased their parliamentary presence in 2010 because Labour and Green supporters shifted their allegiance to them? No, it was in the hope, in areas where the Tory candidate could be defeated by a Lib Dem but not by Labour or Green, that the Lib Dems would unite with the left in Parliament. But instead they linked to the Tories.

This betrayal was the reason that voters returned to their original parties, and the Lib Dems are therefore responsible for the election of a Tory government in 2015.

Patrick Cleary
Honiton, Devon


Presents for the teacher

Having seen some newspaper features on suitable gifts for pupils to give their teachers at the end of term, I’m yet again aghast at this trend.

Many of the teachers feel overwhelmed and cringe at receiving numerous bunches of flowers, boxes of chocolates and increasingly trashy nick-knacks and trinkets, often passing these on to relatives or charity shops and gifting them for fundraising raffle prizes.

Of course, supermarkets and other shops are cashing in on this in a big way, and I hear that some teachers have even received vouchers for days out, spa day gift vouchers and dinner vouchers for restaurants, as some parents strive to outdo each other.

Surely it is time that schools took the initiative, and requested that parents stop giving these increasingly excessive presents, and instead perhaps suggest that they give the money they would spend to school funds or to the school’s chosen charity. Who will be the first head teacher to enforce this measure?

Judi Martin
Maryculter, Aberdeenshire


We’re skeptics, not climate denialists

Dr Richard Milne (letter, 8 June) is correct when he places the word “sceptic” in inverted commas when referring to those who deny the reality of man-made climate change.

As those of us who are part of the skeptics movement know, a genuine skeptic is someone who provisionally withholds belief in something until there is evidence that demonstrates it is true, and who prefers reason to dogma.

Those who deny the existence of man-made climate change, despite the overwhelming evidence, and will reject any rational arguments that contradict their own irrational beliefs, should more accurately be called “denialists”. Calling those who are unable or unwilling to accept what is a clear and definitive scientific consensus “sceptics” suggests that there is some reason or logic behind their positions. It is time we acknowledged that opposition to the science of climate change does not have any grounding in fact.

And in the meantime, those of use who are skeptics would be grateful if the media would stop mixing us up with the denialists.

Jo Selwood
Oxford Skeptics in the Pub


No shame in alcoholism

Andy McSmith, along with many others, talks of drinkers “admitting to” and “owning up to” alcoholism (“A Commons problem”, 6 June).

We admit to crimes, own up to mistakes.  Alcoholism is a disease. Would we expect a patient to own up to cancer, to admit to having Parkinson’s? Can we hope for more openness and better outcomes while we discuss the problem in these terms?

Carl Tomlinson
Steeple Aston, Oxfordshire


The beauty of Nuclear power

Yes, existing nuclear power stations are ugly (“Minister calls for new age of ‘beautiful’ nuclear power, 6 June), with one exception – the recently closed Oldbury, which I think fits in well with its location if not actually enhancing it.

This is an example of what can be done with careful design. Unfortunately, the new station proposed for the adjacent site promises to be an eyesore like all the rest.

James Corbett
Berkeley, Gloucestershire