Letters: Keeping Armistice Day special

These letters appear in the October 30 edition of The Independent

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My late father, Kit Davison, never having met his own father (Private William Reginald Davison, killed Ypres 1915, around the very day my father was born), Armistice Day means a lot to my family. But to remember the fallen, we should keep it to a day, or maximum a few days.

TV presenters starting to wear poppies on 1 October is nauseating. Armistice “Day” will become meaningless if we “celebrate” it for two months. We all know that, immediately after Halloween, our supermarkets will start playing muzak such as “It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas”.  And in January they’ll put Easter eggs on the shelves.

Perhaps even worse is the new tendency for celebrities to out-poppy one another. I am writing this while angered by Home Secretary Theresa May’s glittering designer  poppy during Prime Minister’s questions in the Commons. How dare she?

Every man who fell during the Great War – the grandfather I never got a chance to hug, his comrades, officers, and their young German and other enemy counterparts – had nothing in common but for the last breath they took.

They died equal. The poppy is a symbol of equality, not of status or celebrity. Lest we forget, keep it simple. Otherwise we may indeed forget.

P J Davison
Richmond upon Thames


Another Afghan fiasco is ending. My heart sank in 2006 when the Defence Secretary John Reid announced Britain was once again to invade Afghanistan to “help the Afghans construct their own democracy”.  I knew my soldier son, who had already invaded Iraq at Tony Blair’s behest – and seen two of his best friends killed in that benighted adventure – would be deployed

After eight years, he made it back alive but he left 450 of his comrades in the desert wastes where the former Defence Secretary had suggested “not a shot would be fired”. He left an Afghan government mired in corruption, opium production at record levels and the Taliban, as strong as ever, waiting to return as soon as Western troops leave.

Nothing speaks more clearly of our failure than the memorial wall at Camp Bastion being dismantled and shipped home to stop it being desecrated by “grateful” Afghans.

The Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews


We must act now against Ebola threat

I hope that those members of the Home Affairs Select Committee who met with the Mayor of Calais (report, 29 October) also read your editorial on the problems of the illicit immigrants from Africa who risk everything to reach mainland Europe, and also your front page piece on the problems facing the West African countries in seeking to control the Ebola epidemic.

Unless a truly international response, in money terms on the scale of spending on the wars against terror in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, is mobilised at once, and the epidemic is somehow contained, then it will spread not only to other African countries but to the rest of the world with Europe being the first stop.

It would only take a small number of those fleeing West Africa to pass the infection on to those crossing the Mediterranean. Given the conditions of life of those packed into boats, in shipping containers or in the makeshift camps where they settle temporarily once they have landed, the spread of the disease would be inevitable and impossible to contain.

The European countries affected, including Britain and France, should be taking steps immediately to ensure that all new illegal immigrants are received and accommodated properly and in such a way that as soon as one with Ebola is identified then they can be properly isolated and treated and others quarantined. This should apply to the unauthorised camps at Calais, and cross-channel agreement reached now on what happens when the first case of Ebola breaks out there. 

John Orton


Forget HS2, let’s focus on HS4 and HS5

The Independent, registered in Derry Street in London, risks failing to see that infrastructure is a countrywide issue. It might be thought that the paper has a one-track mind, that being HS2 (editorial, 28 October).

HS3 would bring real benefits to the North, in contrast to the incredibly expensive HS2, the object of which is to extract resources from the provinces and transfer them to imperial London. That is the opposite of the devolution we need.

Rather than attacking HS3, The Independent should promote HS4, and HS5, from Bristol, across Saxland (South-east, South- west and East Anglia), and improved commuter lines within the city regions. That could all be done for a fraction of the cost of HS2. But it would mean investing in the provinces, instead of spending many times as much on London.

Robert Craig


The carbon-intensive rail project HS3, like HS2, is a costly fantasy. The proposal for an HS3 to cross the Pennines is a tacit admission that the entire concept of HS2 is a disastrous mistake. It’s an acknowledgement that instead of building routes into London that only the rich can afford, we should be looking to increase capacity and provide better connections between our northern towns and cities.

But the HS3 proposal is not the way to do it. By re-opening old lines – such as that between Skipton and Colne, and the “Woodhead” route between Sheffield and Manchester – we could produce a major capacity increase, adding two trans-Pennine routes at less than 10 per cent of the cost of the proposed HS3.

Rupert Read
Green Party transport spokesperson


Your editorial (28 October) refers to the Humber Bridge as “the majestic sweep of another transport infrastructure project that promised much but failed to deliver”. Unlike HS3 which, if I ever live to see it, will bring significant economic benefits to the long-neglected M62 corridor, the Humber Bridge was a simple political bribe at the January 1966 by-election for the Hull North marginal seat.

Harold Wilson had a majority of just three and was facing defeat but he relied on a speech from the Transport Minister Barbara Castle made in the week before the poll in which she promised to build the bridge. Labour won with a 4.5 per cent swing, the largest swing to a governing party in a marginal by-election since 1924. As a result, the Humber Bridge was constructed in the late 1970s, during the time I spent at Hull University studying economics. I watched as the magnificent structure was being built, the longest single span suspension bridge in the world and, as my wonderful economics lecturer Dr Eric Evans was famous for stating, “a bridge to nowhere”.

Jeff Caplan
Hale, Cheshire


The public, not Farage, is setting the agenda

Andrew Grice (25 October) asserts that Nigel Farage is now setting the political agenda. Not so: it is (at last) the British people.

Many UK voters have for years had their perfectly rational fears about many aspects of the EU’s governance, and in particular levels of immigration into the UK, ignored by the main political parties. Ukip is articulating these fears, and in doing so appears to be drawing in support from across the political spectrum – including people like myself who have always voted Liberal.

For too long most politicians have seemed deaf to the concerns of many UK residents. They now appear to be worried that their policies are not reflecting the views of an ever-growing proportion of the electorate.  If the established political parties broadly believe in the EU as currently constructed, they should defend their positions. The unseemly rush by the both Labour and the Tories to update party policy, in an attempt to head off Ukip, reflects badly on leadership and policy makers in both camps. It does however suggest that the body setting the political agenda is the voting public.

Michael Forster
East Horsley, Surrey


Argentina’s hypocrisy over the Malvinas

The hypocrisy of Argentina’s “Secretary for the Malvinas” (a vacuous government non-job if there ever was one) is staggering. It takes quite a brass neck to complain “about sovereignty, about territory” when his country has been quite happy to strip that from others.

 Until Argentina grants independence to and restores its tranches of the kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia, whose aborigine Mapuche peoples were invaded and annexed by Chile and Argentina and have suffered under Buenos Aires’ colonial boot-heel for over 150 years – continuing to be discriminated against today – Argentina does not have even the flimsiest moral position from which to complain about British “imperialism”.

Robert Frazer


What’s wrong with bumping into the PM?

Your report on the unfortunate Dean Farley  (28 October) simply said:  “He was released without charge.” What did the poor man do, except collide with Cameron, whose security detail were caught napping? He should sue for wrongful arrest.

P J Hill