Jeremy Corbyn is playing the role of recruiting sergeant on the national stage. The Labour party has been happy to let him speak and – at £3 a go – the party could make a million in a few weeks from those eager to hear the anti-austerity line. Many will leave if he is defeated but every boost leaves some behind. The Labour establishment has not so far been worried.
However it’s getting a little out of hand. Some of the big unions are backing him and the level of support among members is higher than expected. After moving right, Burnham is now moving left, promising rail re-nationalisation and an end to free schools.
A week in politics is a long time, but they have only days left to save the Blairites’ dominance of the Labour Party.
The question facing the nation’s taxpayers in the event of a Corbyn retro government (“Jeremy Corbyn to bring back Clause IV”, 10 August) is essentially as follows: would I prefer the financial affairs of the UK to be mismanaged according to the Blair/Brown or Tony Benn preservation societies? It is a real choice. More realpolitik (war, weapons and privatisation) or more public ownership (rail and energy)?
The sincere answer is that, given a choice, here in Somerset, where we fear Hinkley Point C might end up financed by the Chinese, many of us would prefer the latter.
My local water company is owned by the Malaysians (I have no choice other than drinking from my water-butt). I source my electricity and gas from Ecotricity to avoid purchasing from foreign-owned providers, but my clanking train to Somerset, dubbed “the rattler”, is British and owned by South West Trains.
But what if Corbyn actually found that elixir that could marry public ownership with sound money management? If that were the case he would be known only by his initials for ever more.
Jeremy Corbyn is accused of taking Labour back in time. It is not he but this government which is forcing that response: low pay; reducing availability of decent rented housing; dependence on hand-outs of food by charities; no access to justice for the poor; increasing costs of higher education; an ever-widening gap between the obscenely rich and the poor – all depressingly reminiscent of Victorian times. It seems that we must fight those battles all over again. Genuinely left-wing policies haven’t done the SNP any harm.
Patricia A Baxter
I do not understand the rush by many Labour supporters to back the policies proposed by Jeremy Corbyn, which seem well to the left of Labour’s stance at the last election. Does no one really remember what happened in the 1980s?
Labour can do nothing without winning an election. They need to gain around a 100 seats and boundary changes will make this even more difficult. To win an election they will have to attract votes from people who voted Tory last time. I do hope for all our sakes that Labour supporters come to their senses and elect someone who at least gives the centre or centre left a chance of victory. The stakes are now too high for anything else to happen.
Coal is dangerous, but shale gas is no answer
President Obama may have finally woken up to the dangers of using coal as an energy source, but he seems to think that shale gas is the solution (report, 3 August).
In his State of the Union message in 2012 Obama said of fracking: “We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years, and my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy source.”
The problem, of course, is that shale gas is still a fossil fuel and it is now 25 years since it was first proposed as a “bridge technology”, a metaphor implying that the bridge will lead us to the promised land of renewable energy. In reality, annual emissions of carbon dioxide have risen by 60 per cent over this period, and the bridge is taking the world in the wrong direction.
Renewable energy (excluding hydro) accounts for just 2 per cent of global primary energy production, while in the UK fracking is being subsidised at the expense of renewables.
There is little hope for civilisation until our political leaders wake up to the dangers of all fossil fuels, and not just coal.
Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Bucks
In the US, the markets are digging a grave for big coal (or so says The New York Times) but the bridge technologies such as fracking may or may not be any kind of solution. Why not use the market to drive us to clean technologies? In the US, the political wisdom is that putting a fee on carbon is an anathema. Why? The government taxes all kind of things – why not tax carbon at its source? It’s a clean solution to a dirty problem.
Let’s raise the price on all carbon pollution. If the choice between renewables and fossil fuels made a real difference to my family’s finances, I know that my rather lazy, laissez faire attitude to climate pollution would undergo a revolution. Multiply that by millions.
China’s schools: gulags with whiteboards
I am not sure what the BBC’s Are Our Kids Tough Enough? (TV review, 5 August) is trying to prove. I taught in China for eight years, and I can assure you that the draconian treatment implied by the classroom tactics of these Chinese teachers is very real. In China, children are bullied, overworked, shamed before the class when struggling, and frequently isolated as part of a strategy of dehumanising the individual. Most Chinese middle schools are essentially gulags with whiteboards.
I returned to the UK with my daughters when they reached school age rather than have them educated in such an appalling environment. For me it is more important that my children benefit from a modern, rounded education than that they become automatons who excel at calculus.
Singapore protects its foreign workers
Despite the grim picture painted by “Singapore’s domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals” (28 July), surveys by Singapore’s ministry of manpower and feedback from non-governmental organisations that focus on foreign domestic workers’ (FDW) issues confirm that FDWs are generally satisfied working in Singapore and are far from routinely mistreated.
The ministry has well-publicised channels for complaints, and receives only a small number of complaints each year – around 1 per cent of the total FDW population.
Singapore has strict laws protecting FDW wellbeing. They comprehensively cover employers’ responsibility to ensure proper food, accommodation, medical care, mandatory rest days, prompt salary payment and safe working conditions, among others. Recognising the vulnerability of FDWs, the punishment for abusing FDWs is up to one and a half times the normal punishment for physical abuse.
The evidence of the commitment of the Singapore government to protecting the welfare of FDWs could not be clearer.
Chia Wei Wen
Acting High Commissioner of Singapore
Vat rip-off at the airport
You report (8 August): “Another popular airport franchise that requires boarding cards to be shown is WH Smith. While books and magazines do not attract VAT the company confirmed it did not pay the tax on other products and claimed dual pricing was a ‘practical impossibility’.”
On Saturday afternoon, I went through duty free at Bordeaux airport and all relevant items had dual pricing, showing the cost to a European destination and elsewhere. With barcode scanners and intelligent tills, it’s not such a difficult thing to do – except for the Brits.
Airport shops may not be giving the customer a fair deal in not passing on their savings on VAT, but we always have the option not to buy. I think the bigger scandal is the cost of water and the fact that we cannot get water from the tap for free. Security demands we cannot bring drinks in with us from outside and I’m sure we all agree with that. So how is it that, for example, in the US at Atlanta airport there are free drinking fountains everywhere. They don’t try to rip off the traveller so why do we allow it here?
I’d like a human to serve me, please
Since these substitutes for human beings were first introduced I have always refused to use a self-serve machine, in supermarkets, newsagents and in any other place where jobs are being destroyed. I also tell someone why I’m prepared to wait for assistance.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent