Letters: Lib Dems at war

Lib Dems divided

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I feel for those Lib Dems gathering in Sheffield this weekend, many of whom must feel even more despair having read your interview with Nick Clegg (11 March) than they did already.

When I finally quit the Lib Dems in 2008 it was because it was obvious to me that Clegg was steering the party so far to the right that it might as well merge with the Tories, and their actions in government have vindicated my view.

The only real progressives in modern British politics are in the Labour Party, and since joining the party I have found genuine liberalism that the Lib Dems just promise at the ballot box but can never deliver.

It's clear to me that the internecine warfare that's consuming the Lib Dems is particularly raw for those who consider themselves true liberals. Indeed, some Lib Dem acquaintances have "de-friended" me on Facebook, the ultimate modern playground insult.

Steve Taylor

Tideford, Cornwall

After the Barnsley Central by-election humiliation of the Lib Dems the claim was heard again that voters are unfairly making them take the blame for the financial hardships and don't understand the position. Voters are rather more sophisticated than politicians like to believe.

The choice at the general election was about the pace of cuts, not the need for them. Both major parties had plans which were endorsed by the IMF; voters listened to the debate and leant towards the Tory plan, without endorsing it fully, so it probably wasn't unreasonable for the Lib Dems to support the Tories in a joint approach to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

What the voters did not hear was any debate on the plans to privatise the NHS, emasculate local government and destabilise the charity sector. Those plans did not appear in the manifestos and there was no democratic debate about them. Producing those plans after the election was undemocratic.

The Lib Dems let this monster out of its box and they will be judged on whether they allow it to wreak its havoc. There isn't much time; if they don't act quickly and decisively, voters will look at issues such as the destruction of their NHS and rightly conclude that it was the Lib Dems who allowed it, could have prevented it, but were too drunk on an illusion of power, and consign them to the dustbin of history.

Alec Tice


Don't call me a banker

I am amazed that Sir Fred Goodwin has had to take out an injunction to stop being called a "banker". There are many terms that many people would like to call him – I would have thought that "banker" would be the very last that anyone would think of.

You really do wonder whether he and his successors have ever really got it – apart from all the lovely dosh of course.

Tom Simpson


Regarding Royal Bank of Scotland's decision to pay top executives £28m bonuses (Business, 9 March), the article states that an RBS spokesman said: "These awards follow exhaustive consultation with our shareholders."

I'm an RBS shareholder and I don't recall being consulted about these obscene bonus payments, exhaustively or otherwise. The statement gives the impression that shareholders have approved the bonuses, but I, both as a shareholder and a British taxpayer, certainly have not.

This bank lost more than £1bn last year and only exists because it was bailed out by the Government and the taxpayer. These bankers are completely out of touch with reality.

Mike Werkmeister

East Lambrook, Somerset

How many clients complain loudly about the obscene bonuses that the bankers are paying themselves, yet do nothing about it? I have banked with RBS for 30 years, but now that it is mainly owned but the taxpayer, and yet the bosses blithely gobble at the trough, I have removed my account to the more ethical Co-op bank. If all clients did this the bankers would soon wake up to the real world.

Jenny Balfour-Paul


It is impossible to praise John Lewis/Waitrose too highly for the equal profit-sharing they use. From the most Olympian suit to the humblest shop-floor employee everyone gets 18 per cent this year. That's the way to do it. Were the banks to operate similarly, with depositors and investors being treated on an equal footing with employees, how would yields change?

Steve Ford

Haydon Bridge, Northumberland

We live in a sick society where the national average wage is around £25,000 a year, yet simple GPs earn over £100,000 a year, bankers earn in a year what to other people is a national lottery jackpot, and now we hear that banks pay less than 2 per cent in tax.

If we don't make more of an effort to create a fairer society in this country, we are looking at a very bleak and unhappy future.

Rob Michaels


Legal definitions of hacking

Your article "Murdoch ally 'warned MPs not to pursue hacking scandal' " (11 March) repeats comments made by Chris Bryant MP in Thursday evening's debate in the House of Commons. These contain a very serious allegation that I entirely refute.

You repeat Mr Bryant's assertion that I "misled a parliamentary inquiry" (sic: the Home Affairs Select Committee). This is then qualified when you reiterate Mr Bryant's assertion that "The 'narrow' interpretation of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, that it was not a crime to eavesdrop messages already listened to by their intended recipient, 'was misleading not on a minor point, but on the most substantial point of all'".

In his letter of 30 July 2009 to the chair of the Culture and Media Select Committee, the Director of Public Prosecutions clearly states: "To prove the criminal offence of interception the prosecution must prove that the actual message was intercepted prior to it being accessed by the intended recipient." I am not sure how much more unequivocal legal advice can be.

It is right to state that some 18 months later, as part of an examination of material contained in the New York Times, the CPS signalled an intention hereon to take a broader view of the relevant legislation. That was not the position when I gave my evidence to the select committee.

I have always said that if new evidence emerged then we would consider re-opening the case. In January of this year, News International provided new material which is now being examined as part of a new investigation.

John Yates

Acting Deputy Commissioner

Metropolitan Police Service

London SW1

Premature babies

Mary Dejevsky highlights the challenging issues faced by families of babies born at 23 weeks' gestation and the healthcare professionals who care for them (Notebook, 9 March).

Very good research shows survival of babies born at 23 weeks is actually much higher than the nine out of a hundred that she quotes, and that in fact 18 of a hundred such babies survive.

When deciding on treatment for extremely premature babies, gestational age is just one of many factors to be considered. Each baby must be treated as an individual, assessed, and their care agreed upon on a case-by-case basis. Any decision about treatment should be made in partnership with parents and the clinical team – parents are not expected to make these very difficult decisions without assistance.

While this is the ideal scenario, in some instances healthcare professionals can and will make decisions if any treatment for a 23-week-baby would be futile, and any decision should be made in the best interest of the baby. It is not the case that all babies born at 23 weeks are routinely resuscitated.

These 23-week babies are patients just like anyone else, who need the best care possible.

Andy Cole

Chief Executive, Bliss the special care baby charity,

London SE1

Trust in Britain

I heartily endorse the article by John Kampfner urging the BBC to regain its nerve (10 March). Why do all our politicians undervalue the World Service, which gives Britain so much trust and influence in the world? We have just returned from India where one guide, faced with the loss of the English-language broadcast, bemoaned the fact with real emotion. "We trust the BBC," he said.

Alison Farrow

London SE21

They deserve it

Your leading article (10 March) suggests that the management of London Underground offer passengers a bonus for delayed trains. Surely, as they come into line with other failing sectors, they should follow accepted practice and award themselves one.

Tony Kirwood

London SE8

Perspectives on civil war in Libya

Ordinary people need our help

Like President Obama, I strongly opposed the premeditated invasion of Iraq in 2003, which is now being cited as an argument against intervention in Libya.

However, the proper analogy for Libya in 2011 is Iraq in 1991, when the Shia and Kurds rose against Saddam after the first Gulf war. This was a genuine popular uprising. Concerted action at that time would have removed the dictator, and avoided more than 10 years of UN sanctions that bore down on ordinary people but reinforced Saddam's internal position.

If Gaddafi succeeds in putting down the Libyan rebellion, the countries which have anathematised him will still have to do business with him. Will they then impose sanctions which will primarily hurt the poor? Will they stand by while other reactionary forces take a leaf out of Gaddafi's book to reverse the incipient democratisation of Arab society, the most hopeful political development for two decades? Will they have a right to complain if the youth of the Middle East turn to the false prospectus of Islamic extremism?

Surely ordinary people putting themselves at risk of death or worse for the freedoms that we treat as given deserve our full support.

Ed Hulme

St Albans, Hertfordshire

The trouble with tanks

I have every agreement with your correspondents in their sympathy for the plight of the Libyan people, but Richard Frost's view that "It cannot be beyond the wit of our leaders to get tanks to them now, not in days or weeks" does not stand up to scrutiny.

Modern battle tanks are sophisticated items of military hardware that weigh upwards of 60 tons and cost tens of millions of pounds. They are too heavy to airlift, so can only be shipped. The armies that use them put their operators through rigorous training that lasts many weeks; they can't just be handed over to the first person that walks in off the street. And they are vulnerable to air attack.

Even if a means could be found to get them there quickly, they would be expensive, easily destroyed white elephants without trained operators and air cover. And that's before thinking about the logistical tail of fuel and ammunition supplies required to keep them fighting.

Only a modern, highly trained army and air force from another country would be up to the job – and given the recent records of such interventions in the region, not an option that most countries are likely to take any time soon.

Steve Travis


'Responsible' arms-dealing

Mark Steel's piece on Britain arming Gaddafi ("I know, let's sell arms to a lunatic", 9 March) raises the quaint notion of selling arms "responsibly".

As this is what Mr Cameron and his arms-dealer chums claim to do, I can only conclude that they must have invented what can only be described as the "responsibullet"; this would be fired from rifles, machine guns, etc, in the usual way, but would only kill, maim and injure responsibly, thus leaving us all with a clear conscience and a massive trade surplus. Job done!

Max Fishel

Bromley, Kent

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