Letters: Lost post in rural Britain

These letters are published in the print edition of The Independent, 14 September, 2013

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The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have already cut rural incomes and services with something resembling derangement. The Agricultural Wages Board has been abolished; the disappearance of everything from libraries to bus services has been horrific. And now, the Royal Mail is to be privatised.

If Ed Miliband were to announce that the next Labour government would reverse this privatisation, then not only would he sweep the countryside that both Coalition parties have abandoned, but he would also stop that privatisation, since no buyer would take the risk.

No section of society is more excluded from the national conversation than the rural working class. Let that wrong begin to be righted. When safe Labour seats first emerged in the 1920s, they were mostly in rural areas. The solid Labour vote here in County Durham, while Tyneside and Teesside were much harder nuts to crack, has always had several parallels around the country. The Conservatives and what are now the Liberal Democrats have never had their imagined ancestral right to represent the countryside in Parliament. But even if they had, they would now have lost any such claim.

David Lindsay, Lanchester, Co Durham

The Government might try to reassure those living in the less populated parts of the UK that they will still pay the same price for a stamp as those living in cities. Will there be any safeguard, however, against a commercial operator making fewer deliveries to such places: every three days, for example, to save money?

Phil Mason, Northallerton, North Yorkshire

Could somebody point out where in the Conservative or Lib Dem manifesto the privatisation of Royal Mail was promised?

The Tories push on with their dogmatic intention to sell off the people’s assets to feather the nests of their chums, and in consequence destroy great institutions developed over centuries. No wonder the people do not trust politicians.

Tony Chabot, Birmingham

I wonder what Her Majesty thinks about the Royal Mail privatisation.

David Ridge, London N19

Will abused girls speak up after this?

Juries in criminal trials have to be certain “beyond reasonable doubt”. Where the only evidence is one person’s word against another’s (common in rape and sexual assault), it is of course right that – as in the Le Vell case – they don’t convict if they have any doubts.

However, the outpouring of venom in mainstream and social media against the girl in this case, through the instant assumption that she deliberately lied to destroy him through malice or revenge, is shocking. It is based on not a shred of evidence of any convincing motive: not a shred, particularly given the circumstances of the original disclosures in 2011.

We therefore have to step back and recognise why such a judgment is instantly made, and that it comes from very longstanding prejudice that women and girls, especially teenage girls, lie about sexual assault and scheme against upstanding men.

I would like the many unthinking bigots who have rushed to judgement – who might one day be on a jury themselves – to consider why any teenage girl who has suffered abuse and reads their opinions would bother to come forward now: much less endure months or years of the investigative and court process.

Dr Sarah Nelson, Edinburgh

The tragedy of Shylock

It is interesting to see what different interpretations of The Merchant of Venice your readers have; those of Clive Swift and Vanessa Martin (letters, 13 September) reflect mine. From my first reading of the play  as a teenager I thought it was a tragedy with the cruelly treated Shylock at its core.

Poor Shylock. The great speech Shakespeare gave him which includes “If you prick us, do we not bleed” informed my attitude to others for life. It is a lesson to all who read it. Howard Jacobson, please leave it alone. I don’t see how you can better it.

Jan Cook, South Nutfield, Surrey

I wonder if any of your correspondents saw the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The Merchant of Venice in which Venice became Vegas and every character was a chancer.

The play begins with an account of Antonio’s speculations, Bassanio takes a gamble and risks his friend’s life, and Jessica’s elopement does not look so romantic when she hangs around to “gild” herself with more ducats. When looked at through a cynic’s eyes, even the well-known “quality of mercy” speech can seem tawdry.

In a world where self-interest rules, Shylock’s actions do not stand out as in any way different.

Christina Jones, Retford, Nottinghamshire

Disgusting trade in armaments

You report the underhand attempt to market certain items used for the violent restraint of individuals at the current arms fair in London (“Traders marketed shackles and electric batons illegally at London weapons fair”, 12 September). Caroline Lucas is to be congratulated for forcing the issue by raising it in Parliament.

You placed the article on the opposite page to one touching on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Does this not serve to emphasise that it is high time to recognise that the entire business of manufacturing and marketing all armaments is disgusting, and that Britain should be ashamed in profiting from it?

A starting point would be to stop using the deceitful nomenclature of “defence and security” and be honest that the masters of war who are reaping their fortunes from death and destruction operate on a basis of immorality and inhumanity no better than that which you report from Syria.

Dr Jonathan Punt, Wysall, Nottinghamshire

One family, two names

I was surprised, and a little disappointed, by the three printed responses (Letters, 12 September) to Rosie Millard’s article regarding married women choosing to retain their surnames. Your correspondents claimed that a single surname for a household unites the family, or that double-barrelled surnames are the only option for any children. On what grounds?

When I married my husband 35 years ago I had no intention of changing my surname (yes, of course it was my father’s) as I felt very strongly that I would be giving up a part of my identity. Not aspiring to double-barrelled names, we agreed that any children would take their father’s surname.

Despite having two surnames within our household, we are a strong, close and happy family. Goodness, however did that happen? Perhaps there was more to it than a name?

I wonder what those three correspondents would say to a family where there are children from different parents, for whatever reason, who therefore have different surnames from other household members. I hope they would not consider them to be disadvantaged or their households to be fractured.

Beryl Wall, London W2

NHS money destroyed

This week my doctor discovered that I had become allergic to a certain type of antibiotic pill, gave me a prescription for a replacement pack of pills and told me to take the originals to my pharmacist for disposal.

I saw the assistant throw the old pills into a box with other discarded medicines. She told me they all had to be destroyed. As all my pills were encased in individual bubbles, I wonder why all this NHS money should go to an incinerator.

Surely, millions of unneeded drugs destined for a furnace somewhere, could be diverted for the treatment of people in deprived countries.

Similarly, a few months ago I bought eyedrops for my wife at another pharmacy, 10 minutes later found the same brand at half the price at a local supermarket, and took the former back to the chemist, who refused a refund on the grounds the original bottle would have to be destroyed, in case I had tampered with it – yet the original seal was untouched.

Terry Duncan, Bridlington, East Yorkshire

Try not to be so nasty, Mr Shapps

The Conservative party chairman, Grant Shapps, is highly indignant that the (invited) UN special rapporteur on housing, Raquel Rolnik, criticised the “bedroom tax” as causing “great stress and anxiety to very vulnerable people” – even though she has hundreds of letters stating that this is a fact.

I also see that Mr Shapps has a history of pretending to be other people. Could I suggest that Mr Shapps (even though he is the chairman of the “nasty party”) plays a role as a compassionate person. One day he may make it.

John Wright, Kendal Cumbria

Nursing now

Mary Dejevsky makes some good points about health checks (Notebook, 12 September), but her article is marred by the disservice which she does to the nursing profession. Two years ago I underwent a sigmoidoscopy, a procedure which was carried out by a nurse. Mary Dejevsky needs to catch up with the way the nursing profession has developed over the last 20 years.

John Dakin, Toddington, Bedfordshire

Bike delight

For those of us who might loosely call ourselves the Easy Rider generation Fabio Reggiani’s 16ft chopper motorcycle (12 September) is a delight and a hoot. Though sadly since the original film we have now lost Dennis Hopper, perhaps Peter Fonda could be tempted out of retirement for Easy Rider II, with the Incredible Hulk as his new riding companion.

Matthew Hisbent, Oxford

Secret revealed

I’d like to thank Paul Taylor for revealing the plot of The Secret Agent in his review (12 September). He has saved me the trouble of attending the play to find out what happens. I suspect those involved with the production, and those who have booked tickets, will feel somewhat differently.

Tim Wilson, London N4


We need to organise a collection quickly. Sarah Hughes (Last Night’s Viewing, 13 September) claimed that Birmingham is said to be the least glamorous area on Earth. It is imperative that this woman experiences some travel fast, to widen her limited horizons.

Carole Lewis, Solihull, West Midlands