As the economic crisis has proved, the UK is in a far worse situation than most other countries. One of the reasons is that we do not rely on trade for our wealth but financial services; the very industry that has caused the world's problems. The UK must revitalise its shrunken manufacturing industry, and, with Jaguar Land-Rover asking the Government for cash, it is a perfect time to take the company into public ownership. It is vital that this company should not fail.
Government ownership would ensure essential knowledge in the automotive trade is kept in this country and become a basis for rebuilding manufacturing. The strategy should be immediate state ownership, return the company to profitability and then put it back into private hands.
This is about the future of manufacturing industry and consequently the long-term economic health of this country. When the current crisis is over and confidence has returned, we must learn our lesson and not rely on finance for our prosperity, but plain old trade and industry.
The notion that the Government should risk public money on the producers of environmentally damaging and needless cars (especially when the owners are buying Formula 1 racing cars for fun) is little short of insane. Indeed, they should be introducing legislation to force these types of cars out of existence. To help the workforce they should invest public money to stimulate the manufacture of buses, coaches, electric cars and cars that do way in excess of 100mpg .
Indeed the work that needs doing to redesign the future along sustainable (that is, survivable) lines seems to be the only way of providing long-term employment. To try to maintain sales of cars is about as sensible as increasing cod quotas – small doses of short term-comfort which will bring long-term pain.
If we miss this opportunity to redesign society and design a way of life which may give our life-support systems a chance to recover, then before the next generation grows up we could well be having the sort of experiences which will make this economic downturn look like a picnic.
Dr Colin Bannon
Middle East: rights on both sides
The ending of the Hamas "truce" with Israel could mean renewed confrontations – the last thing this region needs.
If an escalation of violence can be prevented, it will require a new mindset on both sides. Israel must lift its blockade of Gaza, ending the collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians made to suffer for the actions of a minority behind rocket attacks into Israel. And armed Palestinian groups must end their rocket attacks in Israel once and for all.
As Gordon Brown said recently, building up the Palestinian economy can help to advance the peace process, but more is needed to secure a lasting peace. A consistent message from world leaders demanding concrete steps by all parties to end human rights abuses is crucial.
The Prime Minister should push for an end to the Gaza blockade and to illegal settlements and stifling checkpoints in the West Bank. And he should call on both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to get their own houses in order on human rights. Gordon Brown can still be an agent for change in Israel and the Occupied Territories, but only if economic reform is wedded to human rights reform.
Campaigns Director, Amnesty International UK, London EC2
It is Mark Gardner's criticism of Rod Cox that is disgraceful (letter, 12 December), not Cox's criticism of Howard Jacobson (letter, 10 December).
Gardner claims that Howard Jacobson did not accuse Caroline Lucas of causing antisemitism and terrorism. See this penultimate line of Howard Jacobson's article: "Come the next massacre, when she [Caroline Lucas] is looking around for someone other than the perpetrators to blame, she might ask how much of their hatred she has stoked." Elsewhere, he doesn't simply blame her for antisemitism, he accuses her of being antisemitic – " . . . whatever her hurt at being accused of antisemitism when it is only a Jewish country, for God's sake."
Gardner then accuses Rod Cox of writing what he did not write - "Jews are cunning co-ordinated liars who only cry antisemitism in order to conceal Israel's supposed crimes. For Cox and so many others, Howard Jacobson's identity obviously counts for far more than his carefully written words and articles." There is nothing about Jews or about Howard Jacobson's Jewish identity in Cox's letter.
People are weary of the antisemitism smear being used to protect Israel.
In Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, Pooh Bah declares: "I can trace my ancestry back to a primeval, primordial atomic globule." Sumiya Mann's claim (letter, 10 December) that Arab villages are "centuries or millennia old" has even less substance.
Dozens of travellers, authors, economists, foreign officials – including the British consul – testified that, as the latter reported in 1867: "The country [Palestine] is to a considerable degree empty of inhabitants, and therefore its greatest need is that of a body of population."
Ms Mann's statement that "the term 'settlements' is used to refer to the Israeli housing built illegally on land occupied following the 1967 war" is untrue. The term "settlement" was used in the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, which placed the responsibility on Britain to "encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish Agency, close settlement by Jews on the land". This aim, incidentally, was greeted with worldwide approval.
Ms Mann apparently dislikes the architecture of the Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria (to use the historical description of these areas before they were renamed by Yasser Arafat in 1967). They are indeed "surrounded by coils of barbed wire", but their purpose is not to "keep their Palestinian neighbours away", but to discourage the entry of persons intent on hacking them to death or blowing them up.
Bet Shemesh, ISRAEL
Uncounted costs of road congestion
Sean O'Grady thinks that the people of Greater Manchester have shown "characteristic common sense" in their rejection of the proposal for a congestion charge (13 December). An alternative interpretation is that they have shown blinkered self-interest.
This is perhaps not surprising in view of the way the argument was conducted. The "no" campaign, using a ridiculously inflated figure, and assuming that everyone had a car and would continue to use it if a cheap and efficient alternative was available, emphasised short-term financial cost. The "yes" campaign also appealed to individual needs ("Do you want trams to run to the centre of Rochdale?" Er, yes, if you live in Rochdale), rather than looking at overall benefits.
Nowhere was the argument conducted on the basis of the true costs of environmental damage, road-maintenance costs, deaths and injuries through accidents, and working time wasted while sitting in the choked arteries in and out of Manchester. This narrow thinking is reinforced by O'Grady's use of micro-economic analysis to analyse a macro-economic problem. Until we start looking at the real overall costs and benefits of such schemes, we are going to get nowhere.
Commenting on the Manchester congestion charge referendum, Sean O'Grady says that pedestrianisation and parking restrictions mean "no one can drive to work or shop" and that "city centres are slaughtered" . In that case, how did Primark manage to get record sales at its Oxford Street store on the annual traffic-free day, as you reported on 10 December?
Official neglect of war wounded
Old soldiers will bear witness to the travails of Major Richard Perkins ("War veteran fights for payout", 18 December) and to the Government's patronising neglect of service personnel wounded in the Second World War. Those on the green benches might care to reflect that they are there thanks to the sacrifices of men and women now in their eighties. Our numbers are dwindling and when the last join comrades killed in the defence of democracy all those years ago no doubt sighs of relief will be emitted in SW1.
I was wounded in north-west Europe on St George's Day 1945 and am assessed 40 per cent disabled (post-traumatic stress, shrapnel wounds, hearing loss). I was never told of the right to claim a pension until the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association alerted veterans in 1992. I applied for back-dating and was rebuffed because "it is up to the claimant to claim". Just how one claims for the unknown is a question the Government declines to address.
My generation did its duty and remain proud to have served our country in time of legal war. Why does the generation whose future we helped to secure treat us with such indifference?
History of a great football club
Sam Wallace aspires to be a sociologist ("Allardyce out to rescue Rovers and reputation", 18 December) yet he doesn't get close. What is a "traditional working-class view of life"? Loyalty, plain speaking, passion? I've known a Cabinet minister, a university lecturer, a director of a drinks company, a solicitor, a quality assurance manager and the director of a travel operator all to be supporters of Newcastle United.
For Newcastle, Jackie Milburn personifies Newcastle United. A skilful player with pace, power and especially, "heart", unassuming and available to supporters, with a clear empathy and identification between supporters and player.
Only Keegan (and to a lesser extent Robson) has got close to producing a team that played with pace, skill, vigour and endeavour, and that is why Keegan was so popular with supporters. Allardyce couldn't or wouldn't see the history, or communicate that change over a long time was necessary. That is why "class" has nothing to do with the issue and why any manager that ignores the history of the club and inherited values of the supporters will fail.
Dr Roger James wonders about the apparent deceleration of global warming (letter, 20 December). I have hazy recollections of "latent heat of fusion" calculations in long-distant physics classes – might it be that the world temperature will only start to rise again once all the ice has melted?
St Ola, Orkney
It will not have escaped the notice of readers that in the life stories of so many of the young city gangsters (Letters: "Blighted estates", 19 December) one feature appears almost inevitably. That is that their idle lifestyles are supported by selling drugs, doubtless to their mates. Of course, if the drugs were decriminalised they would be deprived of easy income and would thus be encouraged to do something more useful with their time. Or would they just use more drugs?
' Brilliant' but cruel
I am not in a position to judge Johann Hari's view of Cheryl Cole ("What did we misjudge in 2008?", 18 December) but I am surprised at his defence of Russell Brand. Brand did not resign "over a crude joke": it was a cruel and heartless attack on a grandfather who had no way of defending himself. I do value Johann's campaigning against those throughout the world who treat the defenceless with cruelty and injustice. It is a pity he cannot recognise such behaviour among those he rates as "brilliant".
In your brief article "Russia to axe weapons if US dumps shield" (20 December) you indicate that "the US shield plans, intended to avert strikes from Iran and North Korea, aided the deterioration of bilateral ties". Recent history suggests that the actual motivations of the US are different from its alleged motivations. Rather than protection from Iran and Korea, supremacy in nuclear capability is the likely intention. This is why Russia is concerned and also why the shield is based in Poland.
De Valera's war
Lee Sawbridge (Letters, 16 December) is correct in saying Eamon De Valera sent Free State fire services to Belfast during the 1941 air raids. This would have been natural for the Free State government since its constitution laid claim to Northern Ireland. It might have been more helpful had De Valera enforced a black-out. That way, the Luftwaffe might have found it more difficult to find Belfast and indeed Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol and Glasgow.
Runcorn, CheshireReuse content