Letters: Internet surveillance

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The Independent Online

So the Government wants to take us one step closer to a totalitarian regime by granting itself permission to monitor every single piece of communication which is passed between its citizens. This is a wholly unwarranted response to the massively (one might almost think deliberately) overblown perception of a terrorist threat, and needs to be resisted by any who cherish freedom of thought and the right to uninhibited political expression.

In these times of austerity and cuts on public institutions, when our NHS is being privatised, our schools cut, our libraries closed and our wages suppressed, it is most impressive that our elected representatives feel able to finance a surveillance operation of such magnitude. Of course, it may well become necessary for our overlords to be able to monitor the masses for any signs of dissent or resistance, as we serfs become increasingly unsettled by the stripping back of all our egalitarian institutions.

Only last year we witnessed the reaction to peaceful protests when marchers were kettled and forcibly dispersed. A Home Office spokeswoman has said that the new proposals are compatible with the Government's approach to civil liberties. For reference, this is the same government which is trying to get the Human Rights Act repealed in the UK.

I suspect that this undertaking is doomed to failure anyway: terrorists will undoubtedly use coded exchanges, in which case the terminology of those ubiquitous online games would make suspect messages virtually undetectable.

Julian Self

Milton Keynes

Were we not once innocent until proven guilty? Now the Government will increase powers to access the "who, when and where" of everyone's email, internet and phone activity, treating everyone as a guilty suspect.

Whatever happened to the Conservative election commitment to "a full programme of measures to reverse substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion". Perhaps it was just Orwellian doublespeak.

Shaun Walton

Bugbrooke, Northamptonshire

Galloway win points the way for Labour

Mary Ann Sieghart is very wrong to suppose that the Bradford West by-election result does not signal a potential appetite for left-wing policies among the electorate. ("Labour's wrong if it thinks it's time for a shift to the left", 2 April).

Currently those on middle and lower incomes are being hit hard in the pocket by a government of millionaires pursuing measures that coincidentally increase the wealth of the rich. There can surely be no more fertile conditions for socialism to thrive than where the poor are being asked to pay for a deficit created by the rich, by a callous and uncaring coalition government who were not even elected on the manifesto they are implementing.

If George Galloway, whose arrogance is self-evident, can sell socialism in Bradford, just imagine what a party of left-wingers could achieve in the current electoral climate.

Tim Matthews

Luton, Bedfordshire

Mary Ann Sieghart is no doubt right – heaven forfend that we should elect a government that is not acceptable to the bond markets. In fact, why not cut out the pretence of democracy, and just ask the bond markets to appoint our government?

Lewis Rudd

Twyford, Hampshire

Whatever you may think of George Galloway, his win in the Bradford by-election should be a reason for us all to cheer. Why? Because it gives the lie to the theory that ethnic minorities will always "vote for their own". Here, the ethnic population of Bradford looked at the issues, and not at the skin colour. I salute them.

Dai Woosnam

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

All the electorate did in Bradford was to vote real Labour rather than pseudo-Labour. Blair stole the party; Bradford wants it back. So do many of the rest of us.

Sara Neill

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Maude and the danger of petrol

In any business or profession, a senior manager who behaved with the incompetence displayed by Francis Maude last week would have been instantly dismissed. We cannot expect a minister to know everything but we are entitled to demand that he take professional advice and act upon it.

I was responsible for safety for a major oil company for six years. There is not a safety professional in the country who knows anything about the hazards posed by petroleum spirit who would not have told him of the potentially lethal danger inherent in his advice to tell the general public to fill up cans with petrol. His own lawyers should have told him of the sensible legal restrictions on domestic storage of petrol.

Mr Maude either didn't ask or ignored advice: either way he bears a heavy moral responsibility for the serious injury sustained by at least one lady following his advice. Worse, is there anyone who does not believe that his comments were a politically motivated, cynical attempt to bring pressure of hostile public opinion to bear upon the Unite union?

Keith Farman

St Alban's, Hertfordshire

We should not be too hard on Francis Maude and his crass but casual afterthought, "a bit of extra fuel in a jerry can in the garage is a sensible precaution to take". He would have been mortified by the unfortunate coincidence of the lady who suffered severe burns after decanting petrol in her kitchen.

The onslaught following his remarks focused on the simple truth that the majority in the population do not have jerry cans or garages to put them in. But his critics missed the point. Francis Anthony Aylmer Maude (Corpus Christi, Cambridge, millionaire and former banker) was merely reflecting the immutable mindset of the traditional Tory.

Back in October 1955, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the late Lord R A Butler (Marlborough, Pembroke College, Cambridge) made a speech designed to alert the population that the current hard times required austerity measures. With that genial tactlessness typical of dyed-in-the-ermine Tories, he declared: "We must not drop back into easy evenings with port wine and over-ripe pheasant."

This vision of the masses gorging themselves on port and pheasant unleashed the same scorn and derision which struck the hapless Mr Maude. "Rab" Butler was equally mortified that his remarks should have caused such an outcry.

Donald Zec

London W14

Wrong target in Somalia

The expansion of the mandate of EU's anti-piracy mission to attack Somali land targets as well as off-shore marine craft (report, 24 March) suggests that the land-based logistics base is critical to the success of piracy activities. This is indeed correct.

Your article tends to conflate piracy with al-Shabaab (proxy of al-Qa'ida), which has caused "much misery to the Somali people"'. There is little hard evidence to suggest that al-Shabaab actively participates in piracy, as the land base is in Puntland, a self-declared semi-autonomous region within Somalia and outside the zone of active governance of al-Shabaab. The land base of piracy in Puntland is supported by diaspora members both in Europe and Middle East, where pre-raid intelligence on shipping movements is prepared and ransoms are banked.

Arguably, a concerted effort by the forces of the Transitional Federal Government and Puntland, backed by the African Union Mission in Somalia, could resolve the land-based piracy activities within a short period. But the dividends of piracy are distributed among clan members and other stakeholders and provide a valuable income stream to hard-pressed starving families, among others.

Perhaps we should not use al-Shabaab as a reason for violating the sovereignty of Somalia, but incentivise the current forces in place to undertake action. We dread the thought of an al-Shabaab-groomed Islamist killer mirroring Mohamed Merah on the streets of Britain, but a repeat of the Blackhawk helicopter attacks may not be the way to prevent it.

Dr Joseph Mullen

East Dean, East Sussex

The joy of Blyton in the original

I read with interest your story about Enid Blyton's works being purchased with a view to update them (28 March), and it baffled me. I'm 23 years old and as a child I happily indulged in her works. My access to computer games did not somehow make me unable to comprehend what a lashing of ginger beer was.

There is a great joy to be had in discovering and reading things that are not culturally identical to our own lives – surely that is why books of fanciful tales and adventures are beloved in the first place.

Children don't actually enjoy condescension. If they want to read something modern, there is plenty of scope for that already available. As it is, Enid Blyton's books are hardly slumping in sales, so the demand for the past with all of the historical foibles in language is quite clearly still there.

Luke Southworth

Preston, Lancashire

Solution for a divided city

With a cup of coffee I enjoy doing the Concise Crossword before I get on with the tasks of the day. However No 7942 (30 March) made me write these cross words to you.

The clue at 20 across was "Native of Jerusalem", to which the answer was "Israeli". Jerusalem is certainly home to many Israelis, but also to about 208,000 Palestinians. There are no concise answers to the troubles of Jerusalem but maybe if all natives of that city felt equally at home it would help.

Penny Rivers

Francombe, Surrey

Before Hirst

The correspondence about Damien Hirst paintings reminds me that in the 1960s we bought our children a toy consisting of a turntable that spun paint on to paper and made pretty patterns. It had to go; it just cost us too much to keep replacing the paint, the paper and the batteries. Just think, we could have deprived our children of lucrative careers as artists. Maybe he will move on to Spirograph patterns next.

Chris Thomas

Worthing, West Sussex

'Free' drinks

Long live "all-inclusive" holidays (letter, 2 April). They prevent a tight-fisted husband from encouraging me to have a beer rather than a coffee as the beer is cheaper. And they allow a group of eight middle-aged lady tennis players to avoid the interminable tedium of bill-splitting when some have had soft drinks, some hot drinks and others (heaven forbid) alcoholic drinks.

Carol Brazier

St Albans, Hertfordshire


I often wonder who you think are your typical readers. Today's Style page (2 April) has a raincoat costing £850 and a skirt at £390. The 11 items shown have a total cost of £3,458. Are you just aiming at the top 1 per cent paying the 50p tax rate?

Ian K Watson


Emotional plea

Tom Mockridge (letter, 30 March) apparently finds it "disappointing" that The Independent used "emotive language". What must he think of the newspapers emanating from News International?

Kevin Greer