Letters: Locking down a city centre

Sir: Last Thursday, while attending an academic conference in Durham, I was alarmed not merely by the level of security for a visit by the Home Secretary and EU ministers to Durham Cathedral and Castle but also to the lack of publicity. Delegates were advised that the cathedral would be closed during the afternoon but not that, in the words of the policeman preventing us from leaving the college while the dignitaries arrived, 90 per cent of the peninsula [the central district of Durham city, including the cathedral and castle] would be closed.

The police were consistently courteous and friendly but for a period of about half an hour delegates and staff were prevented from leaving the college. Taking a walk at dusk, I encountered policemen and women in groups at every road junction and on every corner as well as a unit of men with search equipment and a van of police dogs. I probably saw 200 police officers in less than an hour. A helicopter hovered overhead. My planned walk beside the river turned into a stroll from one checkpoint to the next, taking police advice on which routes were still open. While I recognise that a security presence may be necessary, these precautions seemed alarming and far in excess of those I observed in and around King's Cross Station in London the week after the July bombings.

More alarming still was the absence of any subsequent press mention of the closure of a major British city. If such restrictions on individual liberty are now necessary, surely they should be discussed subsequently even if it is impossible to advise individuals in advance that they may be confined within doors or that pedestrian as well as vehicular routes will be closed.



Sir: Alan Chard asks (letter, 12 September) what the difference is between Charles Clarke's plan for keeping email and mobile records, and opening and photocopying our letters. Easy! The cost is borne by the ISPs and phone companies (and therefore the customer indirectly), and we are not aware that it is being done as there is no physical sign of interference.



Ashes won, cricket on free TV lost

Sir: What sad irony that a day of celebration for many in recognition of England's Ashes cricket victory over Australia was actually a bleak and very poignant day for most cricket lovers.

Live Test cricket, having been available for decades to everyone on free-to-air television, will now become available to a minority of Sky Sports subscribers in the UK. For many, an essential highlight of the British summer has been stolen from us for ever. The irony deepens since Australia protects the right to free-to-air cricket.

The dramatic complexity of the game will be replaced on free-to-air by highlight packages which completely destroy the essence of the game. By denying access to the general public, due to a commercially motivated alliance of government and the English Cricket Board, one Australian has at least retained the Ashes.

Cricket will return to its marginalised position within sport in 2006 as access to its unfolding drama vanishes from national consciousness. This symptomatic commercialism in a nation that knows the value of nothing is for many an event of tragic stupidity and sadness.



Sir: It is a tribute to modern-day technology that Peter Roebuck can beam his article ("Great series shamed by crowd's abject display", 12 September) in from whichever miserable planet he resides on. We all need a release from civilians being bombed, Iraq, and "fatuous laws being passed" etc but there's the gloom merchant finding a way to remind us of it all in an article on your sports pages.

No doubt he is preparing another dark piece to bring us all back to reality while we try and celebrate the Ashes being recaptured (no singing please!) Cheer up, Peter.



Sir: What an exciting Test series, and we won. Hurrah! Cricket became an exciting game at last. But what a shame that we didn't declare at lunch and give the Australians an opportunity to reply.



Sir: Matthew Beard must have been pleased with the attempt he made to explain the game of cricket (8 September). But he failed to explain the "follow-on" rule, which baffles all those who have suddenly realised that this obscure game is now in fashion, and he could also have explained where the name "cricket" comes from.



Sir: Surely the spirit of cricket, as demonstrated in this recent Ashes Test series, has proved that the summer game can never be "the new football"?



Sir: Congratulations to England on winning the Ashes. At least we know sport is alive and well and that the same team doesn't win the prize every time. Now Australia has something to strive for next time. We perform better when we have something to win, so watch out England - we're coming to get you!



Why the EU must welcome Turkey

Sir: Turkey has long been a major European power, and has long shaped the destiny of Europe. Even before their conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottomans were playing a major part in Eastern Europe. Later they dominated the Mediterranean for a considerable period. Much of Protestant Europe owes its existence to Islamic Turkey holding off powerful Catholic rulers.

The arguments against Turkey's entry into the EU are foolish. It is a nation of over 68 million people, part of which is in Europe. Are we going to exclude the Russian Federation when it applies, as it surely will, because a large part of its landmass lies outside conventional Europe?

Turkey has a bad record of human rights, and needs to clean up its act, as, little by little, it is doing. But this is not fast enough, and must be a condition of its entry to the EU. My father, as a soldier in the First World War, was sent to Armenia and told me of the horrors which he found had been committed against the Armenians. A full apology to the Armenians must be a condition of Turkey becoming part of the EU.

On the other hand, I am gay and part German and am still waiting for a full apology from the German government as to what happened to people like myself in the concentration camps. If Turkey is not fit to be a member of the EU, then neither is Germany. Apologies will be appreciated and should be gracious but they must not rule the future.

Do I want to see a large Islamic nation as part of Europe? Yes I do. I have headed two national Christian (Quaker) committees. I know what we owe not only to Islam, but to Judaism, and what we are now gaining from other faiths which are not of the Book. This diversity is the future of Europe.



Sir: The Government has repeatedly reminded us that it will not submit to terrorism. In his speech in Brussels to support Turkey's application to join the EU, the Foreign Secretary warned that "snubbing Ankara's hopes would give ammunition to Islamic extremists, whilst welcoming it into the EU would avert a clash of civilisations between the Muslim world and the West". The implication of the statement is that our support for Turkey's entry is at least partly based on the threat of terrorism.

Could this be seen as a victory for the terrorists?



Message to sinners in the cinema

Sir: Your Editorial "Popcorn Prayer" (10 September) misses the point about advertising the Alpha Course in cinemas. When Jesus left the disciples to go back to heaven to be with his father, God, he gave them the instruction to go out into the world and make disciples of all people.

In advertising Alpha on cinema screens, not only are modern Christians attempting to do what Jesus directed in following this "great commission", they are also attempting to "meet" people where they are, as Christ did when he dined with tax collectors, the poor, prostitutes and others.

We are all sinners, and while people often accuse Christians of hypocrisy, the only difference between Christians and those of other faiths or no faith is that Christians have accepted the free gift given by Christ. Christianity is for all people, so what better place to tell people about how to find this gift for themselves than through the medium of cinema?



Fuel bullies hold nation to ransom

Sir: Yet again the bully-boys from the extremist fringe of the road hauliers and farmers are planning to hold the nation to ransom and in the process hurt some of the most vulnerable people.

The price of fuel has been rising because of a combination of hurricane Katrina and record demand from China and India and not because of the Government's duty on fuel. In real terms road fuel duty rates on petrol and diesel are lower than they were six years ago after the Government put a freeze on duty rises.

If the Government were to give in to these thugs and cut the taxes of petrol then may I ask these fuel protesters which hospital ward or school do they recommend the Government should close first? I believe the people of Britain will not support the ransom demands of these thugs.



Setback for the cause of free trade

Sir: Whilst it is a relief that EU states have agreed to the deal reached by the European Commission and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce to clear garments stockpiled at ports and in warehouses, it should never have reached this stage.

EU manufacturers had 10 years under the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing to adapt and the southern member states failed to do so. Companies in the northern states, particularly the UK, took the pain of restructuring by closing factories in the EU and moving production offshore, only to be rewarded by having their new production and sourcing policies scuppered by the restrictions.

China always had the capacity to increase production and nobody should have been surprised that its export volumes grew at the rate they did. Perhaps the Commission should have considered consulting retailers and importers, and not just listened to the increasingly strident views of the EU manufacturing industry.

The agreement means that there is virtually no quota left for the rest of 2005 and forward orders for shipments later in the year will have to be renegotiated or cancelled and the products sourced from other countries. Meanwhile, we still have no news as to how China proposes to allocate quota in 2006 and 2007.

It is, however, fairly certain that importers and retailers will have to pay for quota going forward and this will increase the cost of goods. Retailers may well be unable to absorb the additional cost, which will have to be passed on to consumers. It will be interesting to see the trade statistics later in the year to see which countries have benefited most from all this. It certainly won't be the retailers, or the cause of free trade.




Silicone deception

Sir: Jemima Lewis might have rounded out her well-expressed contempt for breast implants (12 September) by mentioning the reaction of men. If I wanted to caress "silicone footballs", I would have sought a rubber doll rather than a partner. If there is an attractive effect on a man, it must last only as long as he is deceived.



Missiles for sale

Sir: On page 15 (13 September) you have a story about a British man sentenced to 47 years in prison for trying to sell surface-to-air missiles to terrorists ... and page 22 of the same paper shows a soldier posed with a surface-to-air missile, on display quite legally for sale in the UK, and possibly for sale to regimes who themselves could be described as state terrorists, and possibly also used in what many describe as a war crime, the invasion of Iraq. How much more perverse can it get?



Japanese democracy

Sir: David McNeill describes Japan as "Asia's oldest democracy" ("Koizumi landslide in Japanese election", 12 September). India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Burma gained independence under parliamentary democracies whilst Japan was still under American occupation. Whether the Meiji constitution of 1889 could be considered a democracy is a moot point. Your correspondent, when recently being shown the restored Prime Minister's residence, might usefully have asked Mr Koizumi whether Japan had been a democracy in the 1930s when his predecessors were assassinated there. Now, if only Japan had learnt to play cricket, how history could have been different.



Wear and ware

Sir: In his Errors & Omissions of 10 September Guy Keleny inveighs against an article about Buenos Aires which referred to "leather ware" instead of his preferred "leather wear". I question his certainty that the author was referring to leather clothing rather than leather goods; Argentina is famous for leather saddles and bridles and, no doubt, leather whips, harnesses, knife sheaths, etc. "Ware" was clearly being used as in "iron ware", "software", etc. "Soft wear"; now there's a thought.



Language of dogs

Sir: My parents' little dog not only recognised and responded to words relating to food (letter, 12 September), but also to discussions about whether it was time for him to be taken for his evening walk. This made him wild with anticipation - sometimes at inconvenient moments. My father translated awkward phrases into Esperanto, so that Ooley would not understand what he was saying. This worked very well for a few weeks, but after that.... Does anyone else know of a canine Esperantist?