Letters: If this is democracy, we’re in trouble

These letters appear in the Friday 23rd issue of the Independent

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I have just exercised my franchise. I had a choice of 11 parties in all – Britain First, British National Party, Conservatives, Green Party, Labour, Liberal Democrats, No2EU, Plaid Cymru, Socialist Labour, Socialist Party of Great Britain, and Ukip. I only received information through the door from three of these, and none of these mentioned any local meetings or public debates. 

Whatever the outcome, with so many small unknown parties to the extreme right and to the left to divide the vote it is unlikely that the views of the majority of voters will be reflected in the result. No wonder people do not vote when it is so difficult to do so in an informed way, in spite of the media coverage.

I can’t help thinking maybe we were right in the Sixties when we said: “Don’t Vote; it only encourages them!”

Sue Hamblen, Cardiff


Voting for Ukip in the European elections this week was bizarre.

I can understand voting for them at general elections if that is your preference. The UK Parliament will ultimately decide whether or not we remain a part of Europe, not the European Parliament.

To vote Ukip into the European Parliament means that we will be represented by a party that does not want to be there, hardly a party that will look after our best interests in the meantime.

Derek Tate, Melksham, Wiltshire


Had Parliament made it compulsory to publish the number of spoiled ballot papers along with the registered votes for candidates it would have provided a way of registering a protest without encouraging the likes of Nigel Farage.

Unfortunately it was better for politicians to ascribe low turnout to people being content enough not to bother voting, rather than being fed up with the lot of them and having nowhere to show it.

Ashley Herbert, Huddersfield


In some countries, youthful anger and despair produce suicide bombers. Here, middle-aged dissatisfaction produces suicide voters.

Trevor Pateman, Brighton


Do your homework and boost Britain

So sad if, as Alice Jones (17 May) predicts, National Work at Home day passed largely unnoticed.

A shift towards working from home, which could transform our national lifestyle, supercharge our national productivity and be the laxative required to relieve our constipated national infrastructure, is constantly undermined by prejudice and moral cowardice. Businesses recoil at the idea that they might trust their employees, and politicians lack the vision or conviction to fight this fear: Boris Johnson’s “skiver’s paradise” soundbite says it all.

How can we escape from this paralysing paranoia? An unambiguous demonstration of courage and commitment from Government would be a great start. Rather than constantly slipstreaming public opinion, perhaps they could lead from the front. What if they actually embraced the digital highway and relocated the House of Commons online? MPs could live in their constituencies, accessible to their electorate, free of the prowling lobbyists and unencumbered by second homes.

Of course if this example were followed it should mean that commuting, and therefore further massive road and rail investment, would be curbed; it could mean that the population drift towards London, and hence demand and price of property, might be reduced; it might mean that Britain would lead the second industrial revolution, rather than endlessly playing catch-up with countries that have overtaken us since the first. How the lobbyists will howl, but MPs will be insulated in cyberspace!

Gordon Watt, Reading


Alice Jones misses the big point. The increase of 62,000 who work from home is due to their becoming self-employed in their own speciality after finding themselves unemployed and unable to find replacement employment. It has very little to do with “exit from the office”.

She dismisses the advantages of working from home. You are your own boss. No one to overrule or pressurise you, no one to control your income or give you the sack. To work at one’s own speed in one’s own home creating a result to suit your own family needs is very satisfying.

Bob Barker, Norwich



Schools turn away from Europe

The troubling decline in the number of UK nationals on the European Commission’s staff reported by James Ashton – a drop of 24 per cent in the seven years to 2012 – contrasts with the long queues of graduates seeking jobs in what has since become the EU during the period around the completion of the European Single Market in 1993 (“My week”, 17 May).

That was a time when universities old and new were growing provision in European languages, sometimes in conjunction with non-language degree programmes such as engineering. They were also acccelerating the development of European studies as a degree subject, and encouraging the evolution of subject combinations which were conducive to employability in the European context, not least because they often included the possibility of a European work or study placement.

Since then, the UK has witnessed the decimation of languages provision in secondary schools, the subsequent retreat from European language provision in many of our universities (a development that has been particularly marked in the former polytechnics), the shrinkage of European studies at degree level, and the decline in the number of graduates with a European-flavoured degree and/or with a European placement under their belt. In short, there are now fewer students graduating from the nation’s universities who have the outlook and the confidence that would enable them to undertake the challenge of working at high level in other EU countries, let alone in EU institutions. The sad fact is that our schools and universities have become less European than they were and in so doing have reduced the employability of our graduates in the EU context.

James Ashton reports that UK nationals now make up less than 5 per cent of the European Commission’s workforce, despite the UK’s accounting for more than 12 per cent of the EU’s population. If this shameful state of affairs is to be remedied, the language learning revival in schools needs to be given fresh impetus and the monoglot, more insular parts of UK higher education need to rediscover Europe.

David Head, Navenby, Lincolnshire



Prince Charles’s Crimean war

I join in the condemnation of Charles’s comments about Putin behaving “like Hitler”, not merely because it is not his place to make comments over political issues but because they are a regurgitation of much of Western right-wing propaganda on the issue.

Although Crimea has been absorbed into the Russian Federation it has happened with the overwhelming support of the local population. There seems to be a case of double standards here – self-determination is OK for Kosovo, Gibraltar, the Falklands and Scotland but not for Crimea.

Phil Nicholson, Glasgow


If Prince Charles would compare President Putin to a megalomaniac tyrant perhaps Oliver Cromwell or any one of the many home-grown plunderers and looters of other nations might be a better choice.

Denis Ahern, Stanford-le-Hope, Essex


None of your correspondents on the subject of Prince Charles’s reference to the parallels between President Putin’s actions in Ukraine and Hitler’s takeover of the Sudetenland seems to be aware of the much closer parallel of the Soviet Union’s takeover of the Baltic States and eastern Poland under the secret protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

Putin would doubtless look on any comparison to Stalin as a compliment.

Marina Donald, Edinburgh


Charles Windsor is a foolish old man who represents nobody but himself. Why anybody, least of all Russia, should take his burblings seriously is beyond me.

David Wheeler, Carlisle


Ancient answer to a Greek crisis

Christine Berry suggests (letter, 20 May) that we have been told about the trickle-down effect for decades. Trickle-down economics has a far longer history. In his Ways and Means of 354 BCE the politician, general and all-round know-all Xenophon explained to the Athenians how to get out of an economic crisis.

They should attract rich foreigners with special privileges, who would then get the economy moving, thus eventually benefiting the lower orders.

I have no idea whether this worked for Athens or not, but I have my suspicions.

Roger Moorhouse, Todmorden, West Yorkshire