Letters: It's no surprise that Elton John fooled himself

The following letters appear in the 18 September edition of The Independent

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I like Elton John. His songs invoke powerful emotions, and his status as a talented artist and songwriter is not disputed.

He is famously homosexual and clearly passionate about the rights of all us to be able to pick our partners with the freedom we all deserve, and through being heard by many powerful people he has probably influenced more than we realise.

He strives for a life without bigotry and hatred, which is indisputably an admirable quality.

However, surely one has to wonder why musicians, actors and artists are elevated to such powerful positions. And why did Elton John think that Vladimir Putin was actually going to pick up the phone to discuss Russia’s policies with him? Did he honestly believe that he could succeed where Angela Merkel and friends had failed?

Maybe he thought that a quick rendition of Nikita sung down the telephone would melt the ex-KGB man’s heart and that the views of a nation would be changed immediately?

I’d love to damn this optimism as the naive behaviour of yet another pop star diva, but sadly I can see why he tried.

Our celebrities, particularly in the West, seem to have been given a god-like status. In the UK, many of the people we see on television appear to have the friendship of some of this country’s most rich and powerful people.

Jamie Oliver has told us what children should eat in school; Russell Brand and Sting have pushed for new drug laws; and Jeremy Clarkson even managed to get the PM to empathise with him in his time of need. Am I the only one who finds this odd?

A year ago I spent 10 months living in St Petersburg. I accept the claims about racism and homophobia in Russia, neither of which I find attractive or acceptable. However, one must take one’s hat off to a leader who scorns the idea of a pop star telling him how to run his country.

Yes, we’d all like Putin to change, but let’s not be foolish enough to think that he might be influenced by a piano player and singer, no matter how talented or rich he might be.

Steve Davies

West End, Hampshire

 

A patriot who never sang the national anthem

My father served in the British Army from 1936 to 1947, starting in India, fighting on the North-West Frontier. When Britain declared war, he fought in Burma against the Japanese.

In 1944 he took part in the D-day landings at Arromanches, going on to fight in various battles across Normandy and taking part in the battle of Arnhem. He was also present at the liberation of Belsen.

He was a regimental sergeant major when he was demobbed. The only stain on his record was when he was put on a charge for allowing prisoners of war in his care to “have a lie in”.

I took him back to France for his 80th birthday in 1995, and when we were visiting the war museum at Arromanches, we went into the cinema in the museum. Suddenly the film was halted and the curator came out at the front and announced that there was a veteran in the cinema, and 30-odd French people turned and applauded my father as their liberator. He stood there astonished with tears running down his cheeks.

It was not until we got to France (the first time my father had left England since the war) that I realised his primary reason for going was to find the graves of three of his friends who were killed.

He attended the local war memorial in our village each year on Remembrance Day. He never sang the National Anthem and never attended church – he was a liberal and believed in freedom and fairness, not deference and subjugation. He died in 2000. I think he can be called a lover of his country.

Andrew Grant

Shillingstone, Dorset

 

Now that we’ve recognised “the few” who so courageously defended our country during the Battle of Britain, it’s surely only fair to pay tribute to the skill of the brave RAF pilot who flew the drone that executed two of our fellow citizens in Syria.

It must take a special form of cold-blooded courage to sit in an air-conditioned office 1,000 miles from danger, and track unsuspecting young men on a TV screen before pressing a button and watching them blown to bits.

Will the media identify and glorify this hero as they do the Battle of Britain pilots? Or will the RAF require them to remain anonymous? We seem to have come a long way since 1940 when the RAF could take pride in its exploits.

David H Lewis

Caerphilly

 

God Save the Queen is still the national song of Britain. It is also an affirmation of an immoral, inhumane, anti-democratic, corrupt, deferential and outdated class system. I wouldn’t sing it if you paid me a million.

Genevieve Forde

Auckland, New Zealand

 

It’s still business as usual at PMQs

I think PMQs this week was a total sham. If Corbyn does not wish to follow the usual routines, how was it that his questions, allegedly fresh from his website, were handled by Cameron in such a way as to leave beyond any doubt the fact that he had prior notice of all the questions and had briefing notes ready to deal with them? That is not a new approach. It is a continuation of the previous routine. 

R Havenhand

Nantwich, Cheshire

 

Tax credit cuts were the real story

The House of Commons passed a measure to cut tax credits for people in work whose pay doesn’t meet their outgoings. This was relegated to a small item on page five, while on your front page we had a big picture of a man not singing.

There was an article inside quoting a Conservative MP as saying that he didn’t consider Jeremy Corbyn’s behaviour to be disrespectful, and there was a quotation from the man himself giving all the respect you could wish for those who fought and died in the Battle of Britain. So what is the story?

I would have preferred to have seen the report about tax credit cuts on your front page. I am disappointed – I don’t expect you to follow the pack.

Marilyn Clarke

Portree, Isle of Skye

 

The other refugees we have neglected

There are other refugees in the world that don’t receive much attention: orangutans. They have lost their homes in Borneo and Sumatra, the forests where they once lived, razed to make way for palm oil plantations.

When you buy biscuits, margarine, cakes and many other foodstuffs, look at the label and see how ubiquitous palm oil has become in our groceries. We are collectively responsible, manufacturers and consumers, for leaving these close cousins of ours without any home. But where is the outrage?

Many orangutans have been slaughtered and their babies sold into the pet trade to live miserable lives in cages. The remaining starving few venture into the new plantations and are mercilessly beaten, slaughtered, tortured and drowned.

These magnificent primates are reduced to starving pathetic creatures on the point of annihilation. Why do we not regard them as deserving of our pity in the way that we regard the human equivalents?

Lynn Brymer

Woodchurch, Kent

 

Walk for your health – and help the NHS

In the light of your report “NHS suffering its hardest decade ever, reports warn” (16 September), the focus needs to be on prevention. As our lives become more inactive, we are growing unhealthier and continuing to place a strain on the NHS.

An easy solution to our sedentary lifestyle is getting more people walking, yet last month’s National Travel Survey revealed that over one in five people hadn’t walked for 20 minutes at all within the past year. Walking is good for our mental health and can prevent chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.

The Government Spending Review needs to focus on prevention measures as well as the immediate NHS needs. Most of us say we’d walk more if it was safer, more attractive or more convenient. We need to make sure it is.  

Jack Skillen

London Director, Living Streets, London E1

 

I can’t believe you wrote in an adulatory way about the green energy deal (“Now 100,000 use collective bargaining to beat Big Six”, 17 September) without mentioning that customers on pre-payment meters can’t join in. They pay more for every unit of energy, but they are the poorest – that’s why they have to pay in advance. It’s wonderful that so many people can go green, but can we not help the poor too?

Henrietta Cubitt

Cambridge

 

Corbyn’s blow for gender equality

What a blow Jeremy Corbyn has struck for gender equality. Suddenly the media are reporting what a male politician wears. There are also regular reports of his age. Why have we not yet seen an interview with his milliner?

Rod Auton

Middle Handley, Derbyshire

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