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- Arts + Ents
Monday 21 June 2010
Letters: Lib Dems' future
Get out before the cuts bite
If Nick Clegg wants to emerge from the impending disaster with what little credibility he has left, I implore him to pull out of this coalition now and to force another election.
Forget about nobody having voted for this coalition and think about what people did vote for. Cuts versus spending was the decisive issue, and the majority of voters supported parties who then opposed this ridiculous level of cutbacks.
If Mr Clegg believed in democracy – if he ever believed in democracy – he would stop this madness now before it is too late for him, his party, and his country.
Initial announcements on the spending cuts certainly make a splash. For the young and pensioners, no more free swimming sessions or lessons. Welcome back, short-termism.
To discourage one of the healthiest forms of exercise at a time when obesity in young people is approaching emergency level demonstrates the deepest myopia in our coalition government. The picture darkens deeper when our Olympians, the disabled included, have recently distinguished themselves in international competition.
From Mr Clegg, so far not a whisper on the matter. Is this a pointer to the forthcoming action on the Human Rights Act, on which Mr Clegg's party at least claims to hold a radically opposed viewpoint to that of their coalition partners? The Liberal Democrats should realise that, in a Faustian pact, there is no cooling-off period allowed.
Esh Winning, Durham
A clinical scientist earns £45,000 median salary in the NHS, compared with a median salary of $190,000 in the US for the same job. Health care costs in the UK are around $3,000 per person per annum, compared to $6,000 in the USA. Much of the additional cost per head in the US presumably goes on salaries.
So is health care twice as good in the US? Actually, the US health service was rated 39th in the world by the World Health Organisation, compared with the public health services in the UK at 18th in the world and France at number one. In short, the public sector provides a better healthcare system at half the cost per head of the US. Staff currently put up with low wages and no perks because there is a reasonable pension.
Rather than cut pensions and pay in the public sector, why not just privatise the NHS? We know what will happen to demand for healthcare services in the coming years as people live longer. I would welcome the chance to earn three times my current salary to provide a service where the standards expected are lower.
The decision by the new coalition to rescind the £80m business loan to Sheffield Forgemasters in the interests of spending cuts is wrong on so many counts.
This wasn't to be a handout of the kind given to incompetent banks after their destruction of the British economy, but rather a loan to a successful, prudent, leading-edge company developing the long-term engineering technologies required for the nation to compete in the resurgence of the international nuclear industry.
Unlike spending on new hospitals, Navy helicopters and City bail-outs, the loan to Forgemasters would have contributed to the future sustained growth of the economy in a sector the future of which the UK economy has no choice but to foster.
Forgemasters are a company that, following a management buy-out, successfully uncoupled themselves from the short-term, stifling yoke of the stock exchange, UK banks and the City, allowing them to focus upon their technology, products and markets. On every count this is precisely the kind of company that the Government must support and encourage if we are to forge a realistic economy from the fantasy that was financial services.
I'm sure Vince Cable knows all this; I can only assume that the Old-Etonian view once again prevails in the Britain of the 21st century.
M D Pickering
Can any of your readers estimate the net benefit to the Treasury if Parliament withdrew Crown Dependency status from the Channel Islands and Isle of Man, at the same time incorporating them into taxpaying parts of the United Kingdom, represented by a couple of MPs at Westminster? Am I right in guessing that a significant part of the Chancellor's problems would be solved?
And if all the other Crown Dependencies, in the West Indies and so on, were similarly incorporated, would all of Mr Osborne's problems be solved? There is a model available in the way France has integrated its small overseas territories into France itself.
No doubt this will be a week of people squealing in protest at budget cuts. We can all sympathise with each other's predicaments in this respect. But would it not help if those who complain about paying more earn our sympathy by suggesting either which other expense should be reduced by the necessary balancing amount, or which other people should pay more taxes?
The Independent is known for its "balanced" readership. Please help.
Kenneth J Moss
Farmers ruined the countryside
I am glad to hear that more farmers are beginning to take some responsibility for the countryside in which they farm (letter, 15 June). However, to claim that "farmers and growers take their custodianship of the countryside very seriously" as a general statement is a bit rich.
Who else has been responsible for the loss of the majority of our hedgerows, farmland birds and farmland trees since the Second World War? Who else has been responsible for the loss of wildflower habitat, to the point of near extinction of many of our once common farmland species? The same goes for many of our once common mammals and amphibians.
Who else has been responsible for turning large swathes of East Anglia and many other heavily farmed areas of our countryside into a virtual monoculture desert, with barely a stick of natural growth to be seen as far as the horizon?
I am normally a supporter of farmers, who have been treated shabbily by all governments, and especially with respect to their exploitation by the monopolistic buying practices of supermarkets. A minority of farmers have indeed taken great care of the wildlife and habitat they are responsible for, but this is patently not true of the majority.
I grew up among fields in farming country and worked on farms as a young man, and I have seen a massive decline of natural life and natural habitat over the last 50 years as a result of intensive farming. This not only greatly saddens me personally but it also leaves all of us the poorer. Farmers may not be the only culprits, but they clearly have to take a large share of the blame.
You report (14 June) that Tory agriculture minister and East Anglian farmer Jim Paice has blocked plans to reintroduce sea eagles to East Anglia, supposedly to save money but complying with opposition from farmers and landowners.
However there are no budgetary problems in funding the vastly greater cost of the Con-Dem government plan to slaughter England's badgers, which has become a fetish for the farming establishment despite scientific evidence showing that it will not succeed in controlling bovine TB. As usual, Tory government means rule in line with the prejudices of the rural establishment.
I was truly gobsmacked to read Andy Cole's claim to "understand Rooney's anger" (19 June).
He is talking about someone who is paid around £100,000 a week to play football and who is apparently seething with anger at some people who earn something closer to £300 a week and who are a little miffed that much of this hard-earned money has been squandered on paying to watch Wayne Rooney not play football.
I don't imagine Mr Cole will find many readers agreeing with his show of solidarity with a fellow ex-striker.
Capello must go! For the England team to be successful the manager needs to understand the mentality. Players should be consulted and involved in the structure to build a successful team.
England has great players but will not perform well if ruled with an inflexible, iron hand. They all went on to the pitch looking intimidated. This type of management may work with Italian players, but it is wrong for England.
Assaults on asylum-seekers
The account of Iraqi asylum-seekers being assaulted on the flight to Iraq (19 June) came as no surprise to me.
I visit asylum-seekers as a doctor to assess them for medico-legal reports. I have visited several who have been assaulted on attempted removal; they have been returned to the immigration removal centre because either the pilot, or in some cases other passengers, have refused to travel with someone who is being so badly abused.
I have met and examined seriously shaken young men and women, with deep hand-cuff wounds and bruises on their bodies, who desperately fear return to possible torture and death in their own countries.
Dr Charmian Goldwyn
London SW 13
Room for big and small cinemas
Alice Jones paints a vivid picture of the growth of private screenings, film festivals and themed events ("Say a long goodbye to the multiplex", 18 June) but her implication that these have grown in response to a rejection of traditional cinema is not borne out by the available facts. Last year saw UK cinema-going hit its highest level for seven years, with the previous summer showing the highest cinema audiences since 1969.
The UK remains comparatively under-screened compared with other European countries, so there is ample room for the broadest range of big-screen experience – and the current digital revolution in cinema will increasingly mean that all sites should be able to offer customers a broader range of film and non-film content. But to set up niche ventures such as those described in the article in some kind of false competition with traditional cinema-going is completely misleading.
Chief Executive, Cinema Exhibitors' Association
In an otherwise rewarding article by Alice Jones, the emphasis on the more modern models of "alt cinemas" sadly ignored the Gothique Film Society, London's oldest film club.
Over the years the GFS has operated from a number of locations (it currently resides at the Conway Hall in Holborn), and has been serving up double bills of largely unknown or forgotten British horror, fantasy and crime films to a loyal audience for 45 years. Its roots are firmly in the 1960s and its existence has prevailed through the rise and saturation of the multiplex. It deserves a place in any assessment of "guerrilla" cinemas.
Energy stored as hydrogen
Our company specialises in the development and manufacture of equipment to produce hydrogen by water electrolysis for energy storage and clean fuel. I would like to address common myths touched on by Aymenn Jawad (letter, 15 June).
Mr Jawad correctly identified the carbon footprint of "brown" hydrogen produced from reformed natural gas that is commonly distributed in its liquefied state by road tanker, and highlighted the inefficiencies and high cost incurred.
However hydrogen produced by water electrolysis enables one to produce a clean fuel at the point of use, wherever it is needed, without the need for a new distribution infrastructure, using the existing electricity and water supply. If the electricity supply comes from a renewable source such as wind or solar photovoltaics then the hydrogen has no carbon footprint and is called "green" hydrogen.
Hydrogen can be burnt in today's petrol combustion engines (with modification) as well as fuel-cell vehicles, where efforts to reduce the use of platinum continue apace. Resources are not the issue.
Energy storage as hydrogen enables efficient capture of increasing amounts of variable renewable energy in a way that enables fossil-fuel power plant in the power system to be run at steady load, and hence high efficiency.
Can we afford not to develop hydrogen technology in the UK?
ITM Power, Sheffield
Alan Percy claims that he has received no reply from six North-West MEPs to his letter about Israel's trade agreements with the EU (letter, 17 June). I have no record of such a letter, but I am many times on record as calling for the suspension of the Association Agreement until Israel respects the human rights provisions within it. Incidentally, Mr Percy might find that some MEPs now have access to a device called a telephone. My office number is 0161 477 7070.
Chris Davies MEP
(Lib Dem, North-West)
Stockport, greater manchester
Rupert Cornwell says Korea is America's "forgotten war" (18 June). The Korean War provided a wealth of films, many starring Audie Murphy, Pork Chop Hill being one. Above all though remains the song "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town", a big hit for Kenny Rogers in the late Sixties but written over a decade earlier about a crippled Korean vet and his wayward wife.
Ranting from the White House
Let him that is without sin cast the first stone. Barack Obama's ranting following the BP disaster is outrageous. His attempt to deflect the spotlight from his personal popularity rating is both crude and hypocritical.
His memory is a short one. May I remind him of industrial disasters which have gone before and where the Americans have been culpable: the Bhopal catastrophe of 1984, leaving at least 2,000 dead; Exxon Valdez, where eleven million gallons of oil was spilled; and Piper Alpha in 1988, an oil rig owned and operated by the American company Occidental Petroleum.
Consider the depths the President might have gone to if it wasn't for the "special relationship".
Price of ignoring the engineers
Rahm Emanuel, the White House Chief of Staff, misses the point in his criticism of Tony Hayward, Chief Executive of BP, for lack of public relations nous. BP, in common with almost all UK corporations these days, is run not by engineers or technocrats, but by accountants and marketers – with, normally, a very sharp focus on public relations.
That the latter has been found lacking, in the Deepwater disaster, is due to a lack of engineering nous. It is telling that journalists, rather than BP, have made most of the running in educating the public about technical aspects of the blowout.
Given his training, as a geologist, Tony Hayward should have made more attempt to communicate with the US public and legislators. Had they been apprised of technical difficulties involved in capping the leak, and kept informed of developments, there would have been a whole lot less anger and a whole lot less pork in the barrel for American politicians to make capital from.
Had BP's corporate culture been engineering-orientated, rather than spin-oriented and utterly focused on the bottom line, there is a good chance that the disaster might not have occurred in the first place.
Dr Yen-Chung Chong
Where were you?
So the American Oval Office thinks that BP boss Tony Hayward should explain why he spent a day sailing around the Solent with his teenage son rather than fighting oil on the beaches around the Gulf of Mexico.
Fair enough. Perhaps, while they're waiting for Tony Hayward to justify his absence as an individual, the USA would like to explain where they were, as a nation, between 3 September 1939 and 8 December 1941.
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