Letters: Labour and the Left

After Brown, where can voters of the left go?

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So Gordon won't go and everyone else is dithering. The principled Labour Party we grew up with is dead in the water. Conservative rule will sideline ordinary workers and the poor for years while the rich get richer.

I am contemplating spoiling my ballot paper at the next election, but maybe we could have a new breakaway party, maybe ethical, socialist and green. Perhaps the Labour MPs who didn't fiddle their expenses could make the first move. I could give politics one last chance and vote for that.

Margaret Adams

Keighley, West Yorkshire

The Prime Minister has made a great start in his mission to clean up the reputation of politics with his reappointment of Peter Hain to the Cabinet – a further example of his clunking fist on the pulse.

Ian Partridge


I belong to no political party, but I do object to the tone of letters which complain of our "unelected" Prime Minister. This country has never, ever elected its prime minister. We elect Members of Parliament, and they come up with the Prime Minister between them, as they see fit, subject to the monarch's agreement, which can be taken as read. If you want a different system, argue for it, but don't blame Gordon Brown.

Fr Patrick Morrow

London SE5

Stop picking on Gordon Brown and publishing only pictures that show him looking worried. We do not want a grinning goon like Blair in these troubled times, but no need to go to another extreme.

Brown feels the angst of the people on a world economic problem, and is being blamed for an expenses debacle that has been going on for years, engaged in by all parties. He is the best man to take Britain through this world economic malaise. And he will do it.

Ray Newton

London SE19

What do you call a prime minister with no ministers? A sub-prime minister?

Dr Patrick Strube

Medmenham, Buckinghamshire

BNP success bodes ill for democracy

The evening had turned ugly. Raised voices led to scuffles in a doorway of Leeds Town Hall and suddenly the number of yellow-jacketed police officers in the room doubled. The new BNP MEP droned on, the lack of fire in his speech in contrast to the jubilant shouts from black-shirted skinheads around the room.

A lesson in democracy? I don't think so. The BNP had received 120,000 votes out of a total electorate of 3.5 million, four in every 100 voters in the Yorkshire and Humber region. The biggest winner on the night was the "voting is a waste of time" party. Two out of three voters stayed at home. They could see no difference between the sleaze of the middle-of-the-road parties and did not believe that the numerous non-Westminster parties were likely to change anything.

These non-Westminster parties were, however, the second biggest winners. They included UKIP, BNP, the Green Party and numerous other heart-felt causes. With the exception of the Green Party, these were votes against something.

For UKIP it was all about getting out of Europe. For the BNP, it was about immigration and the perceived injustice to the "indigenous" population. The old establishment parties will attempt to dismiss these protests as an aberration. But they do so at their peril and at the peril of our democracy.

Sadly, democracy in the UK is now a sham, with an unelected Prime Minister leading a cabinet of unelected lords and ladies. The unrepresentative vote at the European election must be seen for what it is: a stifled cry of despair from the electorate, desperate for the political establishment to listen to them and to their concerns. If Westminster politicians continue to ignore them, then before very long, rule in this country will be handed over to those black-shirted skinheads and yellow-jacketed police.

Leslie A Rowe

Green Party European Candidate for Yorkshire and the Humber,

Brompton on Swale, North Yorkshire

The success of the extremist organisations, such as the British National Party, in the European elections is a tragedy for the UK and demonstrates just how disillusioned the public has become with mainstream politics.

The excesses of parliamentarians and the resulting scandals have led to voters staying away from the polls, for which our political leaders must be held to account. That the BNP has been allowed to benefit should serve as a warning to both mainstream politicians and the British public: in the same way that the German population had warnings of the rise of extremism in the 1930s.

With the internal problems facing the Government virtually guaranteeing a general election later this year, politicians must now make every effort to repair their tarnished reputations and broken trust with the public. Equally, the public must prevent their mistrust of our MPs from allowing extremists like the BNP to gain a further foothold in the British politics.

Ben Barkow

Director, Wiener Library

London W1

The widespread misconceptions about refugees highlighted in your newspaper ("Prejudice and ignorance skew public view of asylum seekers", 8 June) are depressingly familiar.

It is encouraging to see so many British people perceiving refugees to be friendly, brave, intelligent and hardworking. However, asylum seekers will be frustrated by their "hardworking" tag as they are currently banned by law from working in the UK.

Banning asylum seekers from working forces them into poverty and sometimes into illegal work where they face further exploitation. The desperate living and working conditions that asylum seekers are subjected to in the UK also feeds many of the negative stereotypes that have been cruelly exploited by the BNP.

Giving asylum seekers the right to work will help to tackle many of these misconceptions and allow asylum seekers the opportunity to live up to the reality of their hardworking reputation.

Brendan Barber

General Secretary Trades union Congress London WC1

John Curtice, in his article of 6 June, says of UKIP, the BNP and the Greens that "All three managed to win a county council seat for the first time." While this is true for the first two, it's not true for the Greens. What the Greens did in fact was win their first seats on Cambridgeshire, Devon and Gloucestershire county councils, their first two seats on Suffolk County Council, a second seat on Lancashire and five more on Norfolk, bringing the Green Party total to four times as many county council seats as UKIP and the BNP put together.

Spencer Fitz-Gibbon

Green Party

London N19

An assault on academic research

One of our political parties is trying to take my job. What might they want with a 19-year-old biology student? I am the enemy because I want to make flies have sex with each other in jars.

I am studying towards a career in academic research in genetics. I need to use animals. My "model organism" is the fruit fly, a well studied insect that shares 50 per cent of our basic makeup, and thus is a prime choice for studying the general biological principles that govern all animal life. They are not very intelligent: ignoring the visual parts, their brains are about the same size as the small blob of neurones which sit in the human heart, acting as a metronome, but they can display some learning ability.

Yet, according to the Green Party the use of these insects is wrong, because it can be lumped with animal abuse, poor zoos, intensive farming and commercial product testing. They have called for a complete ban on all animal testing, in favour of "more reliable non-animal alternatives". If there were more reliable non-animal alternatives, we would be using them; animal studies are expensive and time-consuming, but a necessary evil to investigate and combat human disease.

It chills me that a supposedly progressive party can have such regressive views on vital academic research. We need to avoid sleepwalking into a revocation of academic freedoms, or not only will scientific progress be stunted, but we will lose some of our best researchers to institutions in countries that appreciate the ends that can come from these means.

John Lapage


Rights and duties of the Israeli state

Philip Morgan (letter, 5 June) objects to the insistence that Palestinians accept "Israel's right to exist", on political grounds. There are also logical objections.

Israel does not have a "right to exist", because states do not have rights; people have rights. As Jefferson pointed out, all people have inalienable rights, and "to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

If the state of Israel had a right to exist, we would also have to support the right to exist of states such as Czechoslovakia, or the USSR, or potential states like Kurdistan and Chechnya. But we do not; states pass in and out of existence without their "rights" being violated.

Of course individual Israelis have rights, including the right to exist; as do individual Palestinians. One could even say that the community of Israeli Jews and the community of Palestinians have the right to exist, and the right to live in peace and security. But the Israeli state has no rights: it has the obligation to defend the rights of the people who live under its control, both Israeli and Palestinian. If it does so, well and good; but if it fails to defend their rights, in Jefferson's phrase, "it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government".

Robert Sather

Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire

Great view from a traditional pram

Where did Clare Dwyer Hogg get the idea that Silver Cross prams are "only for babies who lie down, not toddlers who like to sit up" ("Wheels of distinction", 8 June)?

I was lucky enough to have one of these beautiful prams and my three children all used it well up to 24 months and beyond. Yes, they have a large bed, but the child can also sit up and look around from a great vantage point while facing the pram-pusher, gaining valuable personal contact into the bargain. The hoods and aprons give protection from even the most torrential rain and there is loads of storage space on the tray underneath.

Size and storage are obvious downsides, plus wheel spokes that snapped with disappointing regularity, but I would not have swapped it.

If you try one you will also increase your social circle, as everyone wants to stop and admire your baby and pram.

Jane Botcherby

St Helens, Merseyside

Pizza guys

Philip Norman (Opinion, 6 June) complains that people serving him in a restaurant use the word "guys" when addressing him and his dining companions and feels it has an "aggressive tinge". He attributes the following sentiment to them: "I'm as good as you are, mate, even though I'm serving you pizza." They are as good as him; they just don't get paid as much.

Nick Danan

London N10

Well said, Philip Norman. Planet Youguy might have developed from earlier forms like "Have a nice day", (now all but lost to "Enjoy the rest of your day/evening"), "Not a problem" and, "Enjoy" when something to eat has been placed in front of you. Enjoy? Is that, like, similar to "Rejoice"? Cool.

Geoff Chandler


Greek to Spanish

I would like to inform Mike McKown (letter, 6 June) that Spanish masculine nouns ending in "a" usually have classical Greek roots. Problema is derived from proballein, which means "to throw forwards". Let it be said that a little knowledge of ancient languages is a great help when dealing with modern linguistic gender-benders.

Rosemary Morlin


Stags on a plane

I am not in the least surprised that the good folk of Latvia wish to say goodbye to British stag parties (report, 4 June). On a recent flight from Gatwick to Faro we had the delightful company of a dozen drunken members of a stag party for two and a half hours. I wonder how they are able to join a flight in such an inebriated condition and why cabin staff are allowed to continue to serve them with more alcoholic drinks. Perhaps the airlines should set an example.

Peter Medwell

Broadstairs, Kent

DVD studies

So "lazy students" are viewing DVDs of their set texts (report, 8 June)? I really can't get worked up about it. Would you be quite so scathing if they went to see a stage version? By your logic, anything but reading the book is against the spirit of the subject.

Helen James


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