Letters: Labour troubles

New Labour sinks amid corruption and squabbling
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The Independent Online

What is remarkable about the present political crisis is the absence of any political principle or belief separating supporters and opponents of Gordon Brown. It is no accident that Brown's erstwhile political opponent, Peter Mandelson, is now at the centre of events, reincarnate as his principal supporter in the Cabinet.

When the political epitaph of New Labour is written it will be noted that those who lived by spin and the sound-bite also died by them. This is no battle over the Corn Laws or Irish Home Rule. Even the defenstration of Margaret Thatcher had the issues of Europe and the poll tax as the backdrop. All this crisis has is the petty corruption of flipping homes and claims for mortgages that didn't exist.

Gordon Brown's fatal mistake was to believe, at the beginning of his premiership, that he could compete with the Blairites from the right. He forgot, as Oscar Wilde noted of his own opponents, that New Labour have every quality of a dog except loyalty. What else could he expect from Works and Pensions Secretary James Purnell, a man whose main purpose in life seemed to be to emulate the Victorian Poor Law Commissioners in his determination to excoriate single parents?

Whether it is privatisation of the Post Office, identity cards, pensions, 42 days' imprisonment without charge, attacks on asylum seekers or the "reform" of public services, Brown and his Blairite opponents are at one.

One of the good things to come out of recent political events will be the death of Thatcher's bastard offspring, New Labour. Unfortunately the disappointment that thousands of ordinary people feel with the present political system will be reflected in a growth in support for the British National Party. That is the true political legacy of Brown, Blair and Mandelson.

Tony Greenstein, Brighton

Brown defies democracy

So the latest reshuffle gives us a cabinet presided over by a prime minister who was not elected to this post, propped up by an increasing number of members chosen by him who are unelected peers.

They determine our government policy. This body then passes its diktat down to its elected backbenchers, who are whipped into submission to do the will of their leaders. There is much more wrong in our democratic system than some dubious expense-claiming by our representatives.

Dr Peter Glover, Rayleigh Essex

Gordon Brown, our unelected Prime Minister, despite obvious evidence from the polls and the current elections, clearly has no intention of ceding control of the Labour Party or standing down as Prime Minister.

This is not democracy, and he must be aware that he has lost the mandate of the electorate. Evidently he has no intention of doing anything about it and fully intends to continue running the UK without support from the electorate.

Is it therefore not time that the Queen exercised her royal prerogative in protection of her subjects, and ordered this government to step down and a UK general election to be initiated.

Colin Baker, Southbourne, West Sussex

Why is Gordon Brown still there? He is hanging on to power just like a desperate third-world despot.

James Walter Gash, Sleaford, Lincolnshire

Is Gordon Brown ill? Duff Cooper in his book Old Men Forget, commented on Neville Chamberlain's reaction to the German invasion of Holland and Belgium on 10 May 1940: "It is curious that Chamberlain's first reaction should have been that the terrible event gave him an excuse for remaining at his post. It is a proof of how men in very high office can acquire the sincere conviction that their services are indispensable and that in moments of crisis they cannot be replaced."

A F Stobart, Orleton, Herefordshire

I am a supporter of no political party and feel I can put in an unbiased word in support of Gordon Brown.

In Tony Blair, the electorate got the leader it wanted, all smile and no substance. In Gordon Brown, it has got the leader of substance it needs for the times but doesn't like him because he doesn't smile.

Well, not to worry, the new Tony Blair is standing in the wings in the form of David Cameron, again all smile and no substance, the polished salesman who will sell the electorate the new Tory party today and deliver them the old Tory party when he's elected.

And the voters and Labour MPs who help bring this about will have only themselves to blame, but sadly it will affect us all.

Gordon Whitehead, Ripon, North Yorkshire

When did a British government with less than a year to run ever do well in local elections? The Blairites were only tolerated because Gordon Brown was Chancellor, while as Prime Minister he has stabilised the economy – at whatever cost. The frenzy is just media madness.

T M Wise, Felbridge, West Sussex

Mystery of mislaid credit card details

I recently applied for UK citizenship using the check-in service offered by my local council. I had to fill in a form with all my personal details. To pay the processing fee, I filled in a second form containing my credit card details, including the three-digit security number. I was not totally at ease with writing down all my card details but thought it should be OK since I was dealing with the Home Office.

Two weeks later, I found out that nearly £6,500 worth of fraudulent transactions had been made on my credit card. The fraudster had also phoned the credit-card company and changed the account address, which can be done only by confirming my address and mother's maiden name. My citizenship application was the only place where all the information required to change the address is available together.

I immediately stopped the card and went to my local police station. The duty officer told me to inform my bank and the Home Office. I called the Home Office, but they told me to tell the police. I also sent an email to the complaint department that deals with citizenship applications but they never replied. My bank has refunded the money and I have not suffered any loss other than all my personal details.

The Home Office must see hundreds of these applications a week, and I am sure that I am not the first person to fall victim to this kind of fraud while applying for citizenship. The lack of interest shown by both the police and the Home Office in finding the culprit and stop it from happening to someone else is very worrying. At the very least, they should change the way payment is made when using a credit card.

Franco van Schalkwyk, London SW19

Not much of a BNP breakthrough

Why despite your editorial opposition to the BNP do you give them unjustified publicity and exaggerate their election results?

On Thursday they won only three seats, UKIP won six, Greens won 16. Even Mebyon Kernow in Cornwall won three. Yet on Saturday you publish a picture of Nick Griffin, and say the BNP "only made a modest breakthrough.". Three seats out of 2,287 is hardly any sort of breakthrough.

You say, "The BNP gained its first county councillors, winning its Burnley stronghold." They have only five out of 45 district councillors. You surely would only describe an area as a political stronghold for a mainstream party if it was running the council.

Sir David Williams, Richmond, Surrey

I find your decision to include a picture of Nick Griffin and his wife alongside the Camerons in your election coverage (5 June) deplorable. By doing so, you grant him the publicity he so yearns for and, implicitly, the image of being integrated with mainstream British politics.

Matt Ward, Norwich

Greatest Hamlet of this generation

There is always going to be dispute over great Hamlets, but quoting Irving in the 1880s then, "more recently", David Warner in 1965 was a bit of a cop-out (The Big Question, 5 June).

Having taught the play for many years and taken a school production to Elsinore Castle in 1985 I felt I knew the play inside out. Then I saw Mark Rylance play the Prince in 1988 at Stratford, and experienced that wonderful sense of words, phrases, lines, whole speeches having new light shed on them. Again at Shakespeare's Globe he brought an interpretation to the role that I felt was the most intelligent I had ever experienced; again, new insights and a new slant to the role and the play.

Out of a couple of dozen or more actors I have seen, from David Warner in 1965 on, for me Rylance has been the finest prince by far – so far.

Michael J J Day, Settle, North Yorkshire

MPs deserve our sympathy

I appreciate that there are many in demanding public service roles entitled to be appalled as they contrast their pay to the packages secured by MPs. However, isn't it time for other sectors of society to speak out? There are many readers of these pages who have climbed other career poles – far less greasy than those at Westminster – to secure levels of income that dwarf the earnings of our MPs (yes, even when enlarged by storming levels of expenses).

We are trying to raise families and manage working lives of maybe over 60 hours a week – but that is probably not so very different from many MPs, who, like us, are stretched to sloppiness over paperwork. Every year, my tax return, (simple beyond belief) is submitted at or after the deadline.

Shouldn't we be rather more sympathetic about some of those who have done nothing worse than, in the context of a prevailing culture, become sloppy about all those annoying little slips of paper, lobbed in a shoe-box and sorted into an expense claim in the dead of night after a hard day's work. I am grateful that my private life is not receiving the same scrutiny.

James Pirrie, Solicitor, London WC2

My son tells me he is disappointed that his MP has failed to appear in any list of MPs who are alleged to have been at fault in their expenses claims. He says every voter needs an MP who knows how to work the system, and get the most out of government for their constituents. What use is the namby-pamby member who, knowing there are perks a-plenty, hangs back?

Richard Welch, Nantglyn, North Wales

Xavier Gallagher suggests that if voters could dismiss MPs in mid-parliament, the power would be used to prevent illegal wars (letter, 1 June). On the contrary, it would have been used in 2003 to unseat MPs guilty of the "treason" of failing to "support our boys", in campaigns orchestrated by right-wing newspapers.

Christopher Clayton, Waverton, Cheshire

Like grandfather

Herbert Morrison was Deputy Prime Minister and Lord President of the Council in Clement Attlee's Labour government from 1945 to 51. His grandson, Lord Mandelson, has been appointed Lord President of the Council on 5 June. How long before he is given all of his grandfather's political titles ?

Jeremy Taylor, Wirksworth, Derbyshire

Still waiting

All this reshuffling at the top and calls for an election must be a bit hard on our next head of state. Poor chap just has to shuffle and wait his turn. Not much of a consolation to have been in the queue long enough to reach the age of winter fuel payments and free bus passes. In his position, I'd give up and find something else to do.

Trevor Pateman, Brighton

Science in the bath

In his piece about unsustainably fat people (5 June), Terence Blacker asserts that fat people consume more of everything, including water when they bathe. They do not need more water in their baths but less – as Archimedes' principle of displacement proved 2,200 years ago.

Sally Ann Lasson, London, SW1

Europe ignored

I agree with Elizabeth Young's letter ("Why we know so little about Europe", 5 June) and would add that our TV news does not make the lack of awareness any better. We occasionally see Mark Mardell standing in front of the Strasbourg headquarters, but I have just returned from Spain, where I was surprised to see several pieces about the activities in the European Parliament, and extracts of speeches by various MEPs. If our press and TV reported more detail about debates in Europe, we would perhaps be more involved and interested.

Laura Lesley, Steyning, West Sussex

Weighty question

If our "leaders" wish this country to punch above its weight (letter, 5 June), two questions need to be answered clearly. Whom do we punch, and why?

Gyles Cooper, London N10