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Wednesday 10 June 2009
Letters: Labour's founding principles
Labour must rediscover its founding principles
The collapse of the Labour vote has been a direct result of the party failing its founding principles, and the support of its traditional supporters. The seeds of decline were sown following the premature death of John Smith and the emergence of Tony Blair as leader under the banner of New Labour, from which time the party lost its moral compass, from which only the Tories and the far right could benefit.
The current bloodletting within the party is part of a blame game in which Gordon Brown has become a scapegoat for the failure of the party membership, who have prioritised loyalty to its leadership over principles. The insidious politics of the far right is able to exploit a vacuum of electoral participation by a confused electorate.
It is against this background the Labour Party membership will have to assert with some urgency the revising of the principles on which it was founded in creating the politics of economic and social equality. Failure to do so will compound continued decline in electoral support.
Mr Brown is safe. No one wants to take take command and lead the charge of the Labour Brigade on to the Tory guns. Mr Brown and Lord Mandelson will in 2010 preside over the greatest electoral defeat in Labour's history.
George D Lewis
Labour drop out of top division and still they cannot sack their manager.
Wotton under Edge, Gloucestershire
Get the voters out to defeat the BNP
Do you still take the view, as expressed in your editorial of 25 May, that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York should not have spoken out against the BNP and encouraged people to vote, so that precisely what has happened in Yorkshire and the North-west should not happen?
This is a dark moment, and disillusionment has meant that insufficient people voted to keep the BNP out of political office. They have been elected with no increase in their vote. The mainstream parties now need to get their act together and re-engage with the voters. MPs need to stop lining their own pockets and positioning to protect their career prospects, and put service of the people who elect them as their priority.
Now is not the time for an election; the country is too angry. But the autumn may be. We need a government with a clear mandate to focus on the major issues of jobs, economy, housing, schools, health and social cohesion. Voters need to be positively inspired, not told how rubbish everyone is.
Canon Ian Black
The success of the BNP provides an answer to the "if you've done nothing wrong, you've nothing to fear" brigade regarding ID Cards and phone, email and internet monitoring.
Am I being overly fearful in drawing a parallel between 1930s Germany and our present situation, with a deep global recession, a weak, ineffective government and opposition, and the rise of an extreme right-wing party, offering to "protect" a British way of life, British jobs for British people, and (by implication) British homes for British people.
Imagine how delighted such a party would be on coming to power to find such powerful control tools already on the statute books.
Broughton, Scottish Borders
I congratulate Nick Griffin on gaining his place in the European Parliament. Hopefully this will afford him less time to devote to promoting his party, and, since he will be in such a minority, we may hope that his future voting will have no impact on any serious issues.
If the European election had been conducted under the single transferable vote (STV) the BNP in the North-west would have needed up to another 51,443 votes transferred from supporters of other parties to get a seat; the corresponding figure in Yorkshire and Humberside is 55,030. I do not believe they would have got those extra votes. STV gives power to the people, not the party machines.
Well, I was in Moscow for the whole of May, but I was back in time to vote. What on earth happened while I was away? OK, some MPs claimed for bathplugs and moats. And because of your media frenzy, the fascists got into Europe as our representatives.
Jolly well done. Thanks. What did you think you were doing? Do you not feel responsible?
Market Harborough, Leicestershire
Can you hear the television?
You report (1 June) that the BBC has agreed to co-operate with an independent study aimed at evaluating the difficulties that many people have in following dialogue in TV programmes.
We, the directors of this TV Audibility Project (respectively a past BBC financial controller, audience researcher and broadcast audio engineer), are encouraged by the correspondence that your report has stimulated. Part of the problem is that many programme makers and, perhaps even more importantly, programme commissioners, take it for granted that background music and sound effects are essential ingredients in almost any programme, to achieve its highest audience potential. We believe that this is an assumption worth testing.
The enterprise has the enthusiastic support of the Voice of the Listener & Viewer. The BBC's much appreciated co-operation, allowing us to make use of their online panel of viewers, will do much to keep the costs down.
The research will cover all the major broadcasters, and all types of programmes – and not just drama. It will aim to establish to what extent, background music enhances or detracts from viewers' enjoyment of programmes. Analysis of the data by viewers' ages and hearing ability will be crucial to the interpretation of the findings.
Where it is clear that the intelligibility of speech has been a significant problem, the mixing of foreground speech against background audio effects will then be analysed, with the intention of compiling practical dos and don'ts for programme makers. We hope these will be invaluable in an age where, as one of your respondents has already noted, all too often sound recordists and dubbing mixers no longer play the role they once did.
Plenty for the boys in this GCSE exam
Philip Hensher (8 June) suggests that boys are giving up on English as a subject because of an "actively shocking" bias in the way it is taught and examined. In the GCSE English paper my daughter sat last week there was a reassuringly male bias.
The comprehension was about the Isle of Man TT races. One of the questions required candidates to write a letter to the local newspaper giving their views on a proposal for a motorcycle race to be held on the roads in their area. Another required them to write a report to their headteacher on moves to make their school more energy efficient. No mention was made of fashion or any other subject remotely biased towards girls.
While there was none of the "violence, murder, sadism or thuggish adventure" which Philip Hensher would so like to see included in the English curriculum, there were details of accidents and accounts by riders of how "[at] that speed your eyeballs are jumping about in their sockets". So, in crudely stereotypical gender terms, plenty to keep the boys interested and not much for the girls. Will girls do much worse than their male counterparts because of this? I suspect not.
Is Philip Hensher really suggesting that the underperformance of boys can be blamed on the inclusion of texts such as Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings on undergraduate English literature courses?
Kings Caple, Herefordshire
End the doubts over Europe
The UK European Election results continue to emphasise the shadow of doubt that hangs over British membership of the EU, and the urgent need to resolve the issue by referendum.
Whatever the troubles of Gordon Brown, the European issue will haunt Westminster until it is put to rest. Who can blame MPs for being excessively interested in their expenses when they are demoralised by the fact that the crucial decisions are now made in Brussels?
If the Tory party is Eurosceptic – and its alliance with the PiS party in Poland hardly proves otherwise – and the percentage vote of the two other leading anti-European parties (BNP and UKIP) are tallied with the Tories then we have 50.4 per cent with little confidence in what Mr Barrosso calls the "Europe project".
The issue needs to be put to the electorate urgently, and decided. Then, perhaps,MPs can get on with their job in a more responsible, and enthusiastic way. A country cannot be governed by two parliaments.
So, half of our representatives at the European Parliament will be Conservatives, UKIP, or BNP – those who would rather EU did not exist! How are we to respond to the evolution of global entities – USA, China, Brazil, Russia, Japan. Let's hope our antediluvian representatives will not prevail.
Survival value of being a good mate
I was bemused by Steve Connor's airing of the debate over the perseverance of altruism, which arguably ought to get those demonstrating it killed, and how this almost exclusively human behaviour appears to undermine Darwin's theories regarding the survival of the fittest ("War, what is it good for? It made us less selfish", 5 June). It seems to me that the explanation for the survival and replication of this trait is simple.
Imagine that you are going into battle. With whom would you rather stand shoulder-to-shoulder, and for whom would you tend to gratuitously intervene if the situation involved significant personal risk? Would it be (a) the selfish prat who had never gone out of his way to help you or return a favour, and whose wife you fancied, or (b) the bloke who was always round your place fixing wheels on your chariot, loaning you a cupful of money when you needed it, and who'd do the same for you whatever the cost?
Ray Newton (letters, 9 June) suggests you stop publishing pictures that only show Mr Brown looking worried. Having seen the pictures on YouTube of him trying not to look worried, I feel the alternative is even more dreadful. You stick to your guns.
Cowling, North Yorkshire
The 500th anniversary of the accession of Henry VIII is being celebrated with a fiver, books, exhibitions and Dr Starkey on telly, despite Henry being the nearest thing to Stalin this country has ever suffered. The day of Elizabeth I's accession, 17 November, was celebrated for 200 years after her death. It might be the bank holiday between August and Christmas which we sadly lack. But Elizabeth neglected to have the six husbands, two of them beheaded, which would have made her the beloved, cuddly national icon that her monstrous father has become.
Rosemary Morlin (letter, 9 June) is quite right to introduce Greek etymology in correcting Mike McKown's explanation of el problema. But its masculine gender in Spanish arises from the fact that problema is neuter in Greek; and since the Romance languages have only two genders, the standard solution to the problem is to make neuter nouns masculine. Thus, I am afraid, machismo prevails even in the cerebral domain of language.
"We are oppressed with a heavy national debt, the burden of taxes, and an expensive administration of government. We have also a very numerous poor; and we hold that the moral obligation of providing for old age, helpless infancy, and poverty, is far superior to that of supplying the invented wants of courtly extravagance, ambition and intrigue." So said Tom Paine, the 200th anniversary of whose death we have been celebrating up here in Norfolk in his home town of Thetford. You should have heard the crowd when that quote was read out this weekend.
Sally Ann Lasson's employment of the Archimedes' principle in her defence of fat people (letters, 8 June) can only help her argument in the unlikely event that identical, variously occupied baths are filled to an identical level. Would Boris require less water than a fashion model?
Walsham le Willows, Suffolk
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