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Friday 12 June 2009
Letters: Is Brown best of a bad bunch?
Is Brown just the best of a very bad Labour bunch?
Labour's recent poll ratings and actual election results have been the worst in their history. Gordon Brown's personal rating has been the lowest for any Prime Minister since such records began, due to his dithering and misjudgements such as the 10p tax fiasco, treatment of the Gurkhas and detention without trial. It is therefore not surprising that he is so unpopular with the electorate and with many Labour MPs and cabinet members.
But the most extraordinary aspect of Labour's meltdown is that so many MPs, including Cabinet ministers, have said that Brown is the best person to lead the party into and beyond the next general election. In other words, they do not believe that any of the 350 Labour MPs would be any better than Brown, who has been such an abject failure throughout his two years as Prime Minister.
This is an extraordinary indictment of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and an acknowledgement that Brown is the best of a very bad bunch.
We have a Prime Minister widely respected abroad (if not in this country) for his understanding and reaction to the economic crisis. Why then have the media conducted such a successful campaign against him? Do any of your readers agree with me that the media reflect a southern bias against any "outsider", someone who can be easily identified as Welsh, Northern Irish, Scots or someone who speaks with a Geordie, Mersyside or Brummie accent?
We live in the age of image mattering more than reality. Maybe Brown should have followed the lead of other politicians and downplayed his roots. Michael Howard (Llanelli), Geoffrey Howe (Aberavon), Michael Heseltine (Swansea), Roy Jenkins (Pontypool) all did this and prospered. Margaret Thatcher came in for a lot of criticism but I cannot remember her being referred to as "English". Isn't much of the criticism just pathetic?
The far right is not simply wrong
Ian Birrell (Opinion, 9 June) is wrong to dismiss the concerns of people who voted for the far right as simply wrong. As Freud said of psychiatry that when dealing with his patients there are no "untruths", so in the concerns that shape political outlook there are no "unrights".
For example, people may be concerned about greedy bankers and corrupt politicians: there is evidence to support the present mood, as there is to deny it, but it is a real concern and must be addressed. Similarly, people, for whatever reason, may not want to be ruled from Brussels, not want British manufacturing to disappear or not want to be a minority in their own communities.
As in psychiatry, the political process must address such concerns, not simply dismiss them as "wrong". Phobias are as real as facts. Denial simply makes things worse, and repression fuels rage among people who feel they have lost their country, and want it back.
I must ask why Ian Birrell found it necessary to write that BNP members were seen to be clutching pints of beer "Bulldog or Spitfire, presumably, rather than nasty European lager". How is this relevant? It is offensive to the breweries to associate their products with "sweating skinheads".
This country has a great history of brewing world-class ales and many of these breweries are fighting for their own survival. These remarks suggest that taking pride in a product which is British is associated with the far right.
This is exactly the sort of attitude that Nick Griffin and the BNP are exploiting. They are attempting to appeal by insisting that they value British workmanship and culture, and use this as a smokescreen to cover their far-right political motives.
I am considering buying a Triumph motorbike because their products are world-class and I do feel a sense of pride that it is a British company. As I also have to clip my hair short due to the onset of hair-loss, and enjoy a pint of ale, maybe I should be concerned about people like Ian Birrell pigeonholing me as a fascist.
I am English, married, mortgaged, hard-working, nominally Christian, law-abiding and an environmental campaigner who pays high taxes for poor services. I was never consulted about immigration or the EEC becoming the EU, yet I am supposed to accept these unpleasantries without complaint. I object to excessive immigration, overcrowding and the erosion of my cultural system, plus being governed from Europe. Does that now mean I'm a racist?
Wakefield, West Yorkshire
The election of BNP MEPs is partly due to competition between New Labour and the Conservatives to be "tougher" on immigration, spreading the myth that Britain is a "soft touch". In fact, arbitrary targets for the number of people to be deported each month result in thousands being sent back to their deaths.
Families including children are held in "detention centre" prisons while waiting for appeals or deportation. Last year, the Medical Justice Network produced evidence of hundreds of assaults on deportees, including fractured bones.
Another myth is that most asylum-seekers come to live off generous benefits. In fact, while waiting for their case to be heard, most are not allowed to work, and if they've no savings get benefits 17 per cent to 35 per cent lower than Jobseekers' Allowance. The UK has just 3 per cent of the world's refugees and fewer asylum applications by population than the EU average.
It is surely not the case that by pelting the elected MEP Nick Griffin with eggs, Unite Against Fascism shows it thinks that ordinary people are "too stupid to be entrusted with the vote" (letter, 11 June).
On the contrary: given that Griffin's support came from just 2.5 per cent of the North-west's electorate, only 31.7 per cent of which turned out, the UAF should regret that some 68.3 per cent of those entrusted were, collectively, too stupid to stop fascists from representing the UK.
I do wish people would stop referring to the BNP as fascists. The basis of fascist ideology is a dictatorial single-party state with a nationalist agenda. As far as I know, the BNP are not committed to overthrowing our parliamentary system.
They may well be racists, but they are not fascists. We need to move beyond facile Rik-from-the-Young-Ones sloganeering if we are to deal with the threat from the far right.
Twenty20 cricket finds new fans
Oh dear, James Lawton is such a bitter and twisted old stick-in-the-mud. His criticism (9 June) of the current Twenty20 as being dull and tedious is wide of the mark. About two weeks ago, my girlfriend didn't know a googly from a leg-spin, but since the televised Twenty20 coverage began, she's now an avid fan.
After avoiding news bulletins to watch the Australia v Sri Lanka highlights without knowing the result beforehand, this enthusiasm has redoubled.
Grasping the nettle, I suggested we watch a video of what many consider to be one of the best one-day games ever played (me being a Brummie), Warwickshire v Sussex in the 1993 NatWest Final. Two weeks ago, such a suggestion would have been met with incredulity. She is now of the opinion that Asif Din and Dermot Reeve are sporting gods.
Whatever James Lawton's opinion of Twenty20 may be, he cannot deny that it has raised the profile of cricket and is bringing more fans to the game at every level.
The truth about public-sector pay
I am sure Hamish McRae is right in believing that the recession must and perhaps should have an impact on public-sector pay and conditions (Opinion, 10 June). But the typical public sector model pays manual, clerical and administrative staff a decent wage; managerial, technical and professional staff about the market rate (where one exists), and a small number of bosses about £150K to £200K.
Thus, the small number of men and women who run our great cities are paid less than the scoundrels who squandered the nation's wealth gambling my pension on the world markets, and much less than Fred the Shred and his repellent kind thought themselves worth.
The moral lesson for the metropolitan elite who oversaw this shameful display of greed and stupidity seems to me self- evident: narrow pay differentials, and, if people want to get seriously rich, let them do so with their own money, not ours.
Local government will be the loser
Andrew Lansley let the cat out of the bag (report, 11 June). Whoever wins the general election there will be expenditure cuts. The Labour Party will, if only from embarrassment, safeguard ID cards; the Tories will slash inheritance taxes; both, in madness, will still fund a Trident replacement.
Local government will be the biggest loser. Neither big party believes in decanting power, and councils can be blamed for the cuts. The losers will be adult social services, the vulnerable elderly and transport. Roads will be OK but cyclists, pedestrians and bus-users will see expenditure on their needs slashed, just when their contribution to a green agenda is most important. As usual, Westminster will claim to be green and act in the opposite way.
Ashamed of our Border Agency
I was moved to tears of compassion, then anger on reading your report (11 June) of the Brazilian couple denied the right to stay in this country and look after their dying daughter.
It is callous and inhumane to deny them the right to stay and look after their daughter and her family, as long as they are not a burden on the state. I am ashamed that this is being done in my name, by the shameful UK Border Agency.
Before the correspondence about fat people in the bath (letters, 8, 10 June) goes any further, someone should point out that Archimedes' principle is not required for this discussion. That principle predicts the upthrust or buoyancy force on a body immersed in water, which is not at issue here. A simple volume argument shows that if a bigger person occupies the bath there will be less room for the water.
The noise of music
My wife and I are frequently irritated and annoyed when words spoken by the actors in TV dramas are drowned by unnecessarily loud background music. One of your correspondents recently suggested that people like us should switch on sub-titles. This is a second-best solution we endure when watching foreign films but why on earth should we need to use sub-titles to watch a drama in our native language? We pleased to read (letters, 10 June) that the TV Audibility Project is studying this problem.
Click your complaint
Mary Dejevsky should complain via her local authority's website ("If I try to make a complaint, bureaucracy gets in the way", 10 June). You can bet that the email address of the leader of the council will be no more than a mouse click or two away from the home page. Making the complaint directly to the organ-grinder and asking them to forward it to the appropriate monkey has proved the speediest and most effective route.
Worthing, West Sussex
Jane Botcherby ("Great view from a traditional pram", letters, 7 June) rightly praises the advantages of this mode of transport. In Denmark, such prams are commonplace, and infants can engage with their carers and the surrounding environment. By contrast, I have been disturbed to notice here a new type of double buggy where the younger child travels in what is effectively the parcel shelf underneath the main seat. Perhaps a manufacturer would care to explain the advantages of this for a baby?
The work of caring
Child carers (Education, 10 June) indeed have a raw deal, and many suffer in silence, robbed of childhood and education. Has anyone asked them if they consent to opting out of the European Working Time Directive? But caring 24/7 isn't real work, is it? Just an act of love.
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