Letters: IMF stokes debt crisis

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Greece, like any other indebted country, is unlikely to repay its debt. However, to avoid default it needs to demonstrate that it can service its debt and balance its budget. Demonstrating that it can balance its budget and service its debt should restore, in normal circumstances, the essential ingredient to any government or bank in fiscal difficulties: confidence.

I believe that the IMF and the European Central Bank have, in their actions, turned a problem into a crisis. By making large loans to Greece instead of supporting the market in Greek debt by buying that debt they have caused the crisis of confidence that they could have avoided.

What the IMF now risks is a domino effect similar to the crisis that follows the loss of confidence in a major bank.

Jim Barge

Southrop, Gloucestershire

It would appear that many western governments, including our own, are just a few steps behind the Greeks. For years they have been accepting deposits against which they have issued bonds. These deposits have been used to fund a lifestyle beyond their means, to pay the interest on previously issued bonds and redeem bonds as they fall due.

Is this not what Bernie Madoff was jailed for?

Roger Woollett

London NW6

Animal rights call for boycott

An animal rights group's call for the public to withhold donations from charities until they promise to stop funding animal experiments is bad news for the millions of people living with untreatable or incurable conditions ("Animal rights group declares war on leading health charities", 21 June).

My dad died with a rare neurodegenerative condition. From the moment of his diagnosis the only thing his family and friends, and health and social care professionals, could do was to offer love and support while he progressively lost the ability to balance, talk, walk and swallow. The glimmer of hope of treatments keeps many families like mine positive while accepting the loss of a person we once knew.

Individuals can choose for themselves whether or not to support medical research charities who conduct animal experimentation. I for one will continue to support such charities as I can see that the clinical researchers they fund are committed to conducting experiments with animals humanely, and understand that for some conditions, it remains impossible to advance medical science without such studies.

Andrea Tofa

London W18

Your report about Animal Aid's call for medical research charities to stop funding animal experiments recorded the alarm felt within the animal research establishment. However, it failed to give details of the kinds of experiments that led Animal Aid to launch this campaign.

Animal Aid's major new report, Victims of Charity, describes how charity-funded medical researchers have deliberately damaged monkeys' brains with toxic chemicals, and slowly and systematically destroyed dogs' hearts. Other researchers have tormented mice in water mazes, injected them with cancerous tissue, or used animals who had been subjected to special breeding programmes that left them weakened, disease-prone and mentally deranged.

Our investigators – led by a medical doctor and a veterinary surgeon – concluded that years of animal-based research into cancer, dementia, heart disease and Parkinson's has not only caused immense animal suffering but has also been a wasteful and futile quest that has failed to advance the cause of human medicine.

Therefore, we urge people to donate only to the many medical research charities that confine themselves to funding non-animal methods that are directly relevant to human illness.

Andrew Tyler

Director, Animal Aid,

Tonbridge, Kent

When work doesn't pay

Christina Patterson argues that people don't work because "someone else will pay their rent and feed and clothe their children" (15 June).

From our experience of working with people in poverty it is not about "clever" people trying to manipulate the system, it is about economic factors which mean that for many poor families in the UK it makes more sense not to work. And let's be realistic, it's not "someone else" paying; the poorest in the UK pay more of their income in tax and even the richest rely on the welfare system for support such as education and pensions.

From when it was designed, we recognised that our welfare system relied on people being able to find reasonable, decent and well-paid jobs that support the whole of their livelihoods. But the current cheap, flexible employment market means these jobs simply don't exist for everyone and work isn't a guaranteed escape from poverty.

And that can create other barriers. For example, women especially are forced to make choices based on the lack of affordable childcare, which acts as a massive disincentive for parents who are trying to get a job. It is crucial that the welfare system provides working parents with financial support for childcare, so that work can become a realistic option.

Yes, we need to change the system, but the success of Universal Credit will depend on families being able to improve their standard of living through decent work, which actually provides them with a route out of poverty.

Helen Longworth

Head of UK Poverty Policy, Oxfam, Oxford

Christina Patterson says that rising youth unemployment is due to benefits traps created by the New Labour years, but she doesn't mention such initiatives as the Working Families' Tax Credit or Income Support, both of which were successful in removing benefits traps.

Her claim that some are unemployed because "they have never really given the matter a moment's thought" is exasperating – a jobseeker must not only attend a Jobcentre but prove that they are actively looking for work.

Instead of employing Dickensian policy to remove unemployment, the solution must lie in longer-term incentives. The administrative inefficiencies within the Jobcentre must be eradicated, and the courses that they offer must promise a recognised qualification if they are actually to increase employability.

The unemployed need to be mobile, and so public transport (particularly in rural areas, where youth unemployment is higher) must be more frequent and cheaper. Finally, employers also need incentives; there should be more subsidised apprenticeships that give the out-of-work the opportunity to attain skills.

Unfortunately, all of these suggestions require the Government to spend money, and although we need to cut the deficit, the Coalition seems unaware that if we don't grow, we cannot do this.

Joe Holliday

London SW9

Thank you Christina Patterson for acknowledging that being unemployed is not much fun. Thank you also for explaining how having babies can both relieve the boredom of not having a job, while at the same time increasing the amount of benefits received.

I now understand why so few men, and indeed women beyond child-bearing age, are unemployed in this country. Clearly compulsory sterilisation for the unemployed is the answer.

Nigel Wilkins

London SW7

Haw's absolute commitment

Brian Haw's was a life of active pacifism (Obituary , 20 June). I first noticed him in 2001 with his hand-written message on a piece of cardboard which read "Stop Killing My Kids". A few weeks later I took to joining him with my placard on Tuesdays – a practice I continued until 2008.

He would stand beside me and tell me about himself and what drove him to leave his wife and kids to come here and sit down in solitary rebuke to the parliamentarians. In the early days of 2002 he was a lonesome figure, keen to talk and argue with all who crossed over to speak to him. He became a media celebrity in the run-up to the Iraq war and target of exploitation by various anti-war groups, but he kept his integrity.

Over the years he faced endless persecutions, physical assaults and abuse, but never wavered in his belief that wars are unjust and contrary to the teachings of Christ. His commitment to what he used to shout at the top of his voice, "Shalom, Salam, Peace", was total and absolute. May he find the peace he so passionately sought on earth.

M A Qavi

London SE3

This won't get off the ground

The future is always full of surprises ("London to New York in 90 minutes: is this the Concorde of the future?", 20 June), but the past teaches us many lessons.

The next decades will be dominated by the rising cost of energy, and all modes of transport will need to be both energy- and carbon-efficient. The needs of the many will be more important than the needs of the few, so that, for example, being able to cross London in less than an hour and to travel from London to Scotland in three hours will be hugely more relevant that crossing the Atlantic extremely rapidly.

Scarce engineering development funds will be directed to more generally useful projects, so that my expectation of the practical possibility of flying to New York in 90 minutes in 2050 is a very confident zero.

Professor Roderick A Smith

President, Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Imperial College London

Northern Rock going cheap

George Osborne has decided that now is the time to auction off the Northern Rock publicly owned bank to the private sector.

Surprise, surprise: he casually states that he will not expect to recover the full amount of money provided by the taxpayers to bail out this bank, even though the loss to the taxpayers will be billions of pounds.

The fact that he is letting the bank go back to the private sector at an atrociously reduced price is yet another sign that the Tories are intent upon letting their rich friends benefit from the financial crisis while hundreds of thousands of working people are being slung on to the unemployment scrapheap and thousands more are having their already small welfare payments reduced.

Tony Probert

Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

Why isn't the Government re-mutualising Northern Rock? It would be a Big Step towards the Big Society in which we all help each other.

Stuart Bennett


X-Men stand for black America

I was taken aback to read Kaleem Aftab berating the latest X-Men movie for "its failure to recognise the Civil Rights movement" ("History transformed by monsters and superheroes", 17 June).

It may be true, only in the most literal sense, that "the film set in 1962 ignores Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement", but that statement ignores the fact that when writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby created the X-Men comic for Marvel in 1963 Lee deliberately intended it to act an allegory for the Civil Rights movement.

The mutant X-Men were a metaphor for black America – a group being shunned and abused because of their difference – with the more peaceful and conciliatory leader of the X-Men, Professor Xavier, representing Martin Luther King, while Magneto, leader of his separatist Brotherhood of Mutants, represented Malcolm X.

Far from ignoring the Civil Rights movement the X-Men were actually created to represent that struggle for human dignity, albeit in a fantastical and allegorical form.

Martyn P Jackson

Cramlington, Northumberland

Future of the monarchy

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's refreshingly punchy article "Don't worry Kate, there will never be a royal expenses row" (20 June) reminded me of the words of King Farouk of Egypt: "In a few years there will be only five kings in the world, the King of England and the four kings in a pack of cards." How true.

Suhayl Saadi


Thank-you to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. As the endless images of the newly revived monarchy having a perfectly splendid carnival of fun are showcased by the media at endless summer Society events, perhaps Marx would say of this revival of the House of Windsor's fortunes: "Kate Middleton is the opium of the people."

Lisa Donnelly

London Sw18


To add to John Rentoul's list of clichés, how about "substantive" derived from "substantial" but not even a real word? Others I find irritating are "real terms", "clearly" and worst of all "lessons will be learnt".

Steve Lustig

London NW2

Perspectives on ‘runaway dads’

Courts back the bitter mothers

Another comment from Cameron made out of total ignorance ("Labour accuses Cameron of double standards over 'runaway dads' ", 20 June). No, not all absent fathers have run away. More often than not they are actively pushed out of their children's lives by the mothers who are encouraged and supported by the courts to view ex-husbands merely as cash machines who should have limited access to their children and have no say in their upbringing.

I have witnessed my own husband's attempts to stay firmly in the lives of his eldest children and how difficult that can be when a still-bitter ex-wife (10 years after the divorce) repeatedly intervenes and tries to spoil that relationship. The attitude of the courts only serves to support, validate, and encourage that behaviour. If I were my husband, I would not have stuck out all the years of abuse he has suffered. I would have walked out of their lives a long time ago.

If Cameron wants more fathers to be present in the lives of their children after a relationship break-up, he should stop the courts from chewing these men up and spitting them out, almost always with significantly reduced involvement in the children's lives, little money to provide for themselves or a second family, and the knowledge that the mother of their children can keep going back to court as often as she likes, for whatever random reason she chooses. Unless, of course, the father decides to cut his losses, and disappears altogether.

name and address supplied

Before David Cameron engages in any more crude stereotyping of "deadbeat dads", can I suggest that he looks at enforcement of the access orders that fathers rely upon to see their children? I understand thousands are defied every year by obstructive mothers with impunity.

Presumably such women reason that no judge is ever going to lock them up, as it would then require their children to be taken into care. That would not be true if any parent obstructing an access order had custody automatically removed and reassigned to the other parent, if he or she is willing and able.

Andrew Schofield

London SE17

Career comes before children

It is laudable that the Prime Minister should seek to encourage fathers to spend as much time as possible with their children and not to abrogate their responsibilities. But he should stop at that because, as is often the case, his narrow privileged childhood and life experiences make him ill equipped to lecture the majority of us.

The irony is that he proudly informs us of how his own father would leave for work before the crack of dawn and not return until late at night. This, coupled with his parents decision to pack him off to boarding school, probably resulted in him spending less quality time with his own father than most children spend with their fathers following a divorce or separation.

Do we hear him rant against the City bankers or captains of industry who often sacrifice their children for their careers? Of course not: they are his friends and supporters; that type of neglect is presumably quite acceptable if money is being made.

Matthew Drew

Staverton, Wiltshire

The Camerons, a political family

When is this country going to wake up to what an odious man our Prime Minister really is? This is a man who shamelessly used his handicapped, now sadly deceased, son for political gain. Now he is doing the same with his dead father. Never in my experience has there been a politician in this country who so regularly and flagrantly uses his family in this way.

He may (rightly) criticise fathers who run away from their responsibilities, but has he in his comfortable, sheltered and privileged upper-class existence ever had to think for a nanosecond about the circumstances of those who behave in this way? No one would defend them, but a little more understanding, even compassion would be preferable to this constant seeking of cheap political gain.

Tom Simpson