Your editorial on Isis (1 July) is wonderfully vague. To state that the aim of the West should be to stop terrorism without a single suggestion on how to do it is insulting. It’s like saying that income tax should be 5 per cent and government spending increased by 45 per cent. So what? The devil is in the details.
Shouldn’t the fact that thousands of people are being slaughtered and war crimes being committed on a huge scale have been mentioned? Or is it OK if the unspeakables kill the unpronounceables, as long as it doesn’t spill over into the West?
This is a global struggle between the forces of darkness and the forces of good. It is time for the “good guys” to do the right thing. This includes the enlightened nations and the good and moderate Arabs of all persuasions (and they are the majority of Arabs).
Dr Stephen Malnick
It is impossible to conceive a more toxic mix than that which exists in the so-called Islamic State – heat, many young males without employment, and plentiful supplies of the true “weapon of mass destruction”, the AK47. Neutralising these three challenges is beyond the power of any government, so the chaos in the Middle East has no foreseeable resolution.
Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s pile of possible factors behind young Muslims becoming jihadis (30 June) omits such excerpts from the Koran as: “Fighting is obligatory for you” (chapter 2, verse 216); “Fight for the cause of God”, (2:244); and “God loves those who fight in his cause” (61:04).
These are a few of over 160 Koranic references to “holy” war.
Tell us the costs of NHS treatments
The key policy issue is how to make NHS spending more transparent so voters know how well any extra money would be used (“Raise our tax bills to save the NHS, voters say”, 1 July). A recent visit to Cuba leads me to one suggestion.
In the pharmacies there, wall posters state boldly that the country’s health service is “free” at the point of use. But they also list the actual costs of many of its treatments, ranging from visits to a nurse or GP through measures such as mending fractures to major surgical procedures such as a heart by-pass or kidney dialysis. Reading such posters in pharmacies and GPs’ clinics in the UK could educate us all into an awareness of the real costs of the NHS – most of us are already aware of its benefits.
Additional revenue for the NHS should not come from higher National Insurance contributions – retired pensioners like me, heavy users of the NHS, do not pay NI. It would be fairer for it to come from higher income tax, payable by the retired as well as by the employed.
Dr Alan Baker
Emmanuel College, Cambridge
A great career wiped out by sex scandal
Although I abhor the activities of Rolf Harris, it is with a certain sadness that I realise that a great career over many decades has been virtually wiped from the pages of theatrical history as a result of the guilty verdicts at his trial.
In future, any time Harris is remembered it will be for his sexual activities and not for his ability to entertain. Over the years Harris has entertained us on television, in theatres and with “Jake the Peg”, “Two Little Boys”, and “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport”, to name just a few of his popular songs. His ability to paint a picture before your very eyes was an act of great talent.
In the weeks and months to come, will he regret those moments of madness that have taken him in the blink of an eye from the top of the bill to the bottom of the trough? Fame is fleeting – never quicker than when found guilty in a court of law.
Jimmy Savile was not always as coy about his sexual propensities as he was in his 1990 interview with Lynn Barber, reprinted on 30 June.
I have a cutting from The Observer of 4 July 1976 in which, in response to the question “What is your pet hate?”, he replied: “Cold water and getting up early. Habit. I am the clockless man – one who is more animal than man, who does what he likes when he likes, eats when he likes, sleeps when he likes, goes where he likes when he likes, savages young ladies when he fancies.”
In retrospect, this seems like a confession of guilt, but clearly no one took him seriously.
Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris were loaded with honours. Surely the honours system should be changed to prevent further embarrassing mistakes, the private lives of public figures being as thoroughly and systematically investigated as the Vatican does those of prospective saints, and the names of television celebrities only put up for gongs if it can be proved that praying to them has performed miracles.
Why keep printing pictures of Jimmy Savile and his like; it must be shocking for the victims, and I certainly don’t need reminding.
The World Cup: I still don’t get it
I am indebted to many correspondents and colleagues who have tried to educate me on the rationale of the World Cup, but I still admit to puzzlement.
I was always told that “the taking part, not the winning” is the important thing about sport. The World Cup will only produce one winner, not even a league table, so it can’t be a dishonour not to win. So why is it apparently humiliating for England to lose out in what is after all, only a game?
I am all in favour of international get-togethers, such as Scout jamborees, music festivals and scientific meetings, where participants of many nationalities mix and celebrate, and I thought the World Cup was similar. However, England have gone home having been knocked out.
Why? Shouldn’t the team congratulate those who beat them and stay on for the rest of the event, cheering on those who are left, and have an international party at the end. Meanwhile play a few informal games with amateur sides, visit schools, youth clubs and hospitals etc, and generally raise their profile and give enjoyment to many. They must all have had clear diaries for the period in case they proceeded further in the tournament.
Fight back for Britain in Europe
“Smell the coffee,” Alexander Stubb, the Finnish Prime Minister, has urged British electors on Europe; and he is right, because it’s British voter euroscepticism, fed by right-wing tabloid misinformation, that spurs on the Tory Party’s eurosceptic right and the blatant negativity of Ukip.
Cameron’s failed intervention against the election of Jean-Claude Juncker to the presidency of the European Commission has left Britain dangerously isolated.
John Cridland as Director General of the CBI has outlined the risk to this country’s jobs and future prosperity if we exit the European Union: but our isolation is additionally a direct threat to the long-term peace and geopolitical stability of Europe. Leaving the EU would also undermine the ability of employees to challenge the exploitative practices of unscrupulous employers in this country.
It’s now vital for pro-European politicians, businesses, journalists, individual citizens and organisations to speak out loud and clear against the madness of leaving the European Union. Setting up a high-profile and well-funded umbrella organisation to fight the eurosceptics should be the first step of the fightback.
David Cameron’s failure in trying to prevent Jean-Claude Juncker becoming president of the European Commission was a total humiliation.
Dealing with EU leaders and institutions requires a diplomacy and skill that the UK simply does not have and it is well and truly in the EU departure lounge. Any thoughts of a fundamental renegotiation of the UK’s relationship with the EU are off the agenda.
We in Scotland are shackled to a corpse, part of a UK which is a pariah when it comes to the EU, friendless, toxic and with no influence. The choices before us are simple: we take charge of our own affairs in the EU, building strong relations with other member states, freed from the ill will there is towards the UK – or we remain in a failed UK which will see us forced out of the EU against our will.
The choice is simple and it is in our own hands come this September.
Take a stand for the English language
Perhaps a “standee” (letter, 28 June) is a passenger whose feet are stood on.
Lewes, East Sussex