Letters: Lynch-mob turns on disabled

These letters were published on Thursday 31 October

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The Independent Online

I was disappointed, and rather shocked, to find that the responses to the hideous death of the innocent Bijan Ebrahimi (letter, and article by Frank Furedi, 30 October) were in terms of hysteria about paedophilia.

That was, of course, a major factor, but so must have been the constant vilification of immigrants and disabled people touted by the Government and screamed out from some tabloids. We are not encouraged to learn about or understand our disabled neighbours, but are repeatedly urged to view them as layabouts and frauds.

There is even a surprising difference between being falsely accused of being a paedophile and being falsely accused of being a benefit cheat. The former may be preferable, because in the latter case, regardless of your innocence, the DWP have decreed you must lose your benefits immediately and cannot get them back until you have been reassessed, possibly under more stringent rules and after a lengthy wait.

Many disabled people, just like Mr Ebrahimi, do not have visible impairments and are extremely vulnerable to false accusations. Our culture is encouraging every kind of vigilante and lynch-mob mentality and we will all be the worse for it.

Merry Cross


As your report said (29 October), a typical British murder driven by ignorance, stupidity, misinformation, prejudice and thuggery. Pity the oddball or quiet person living in one of these unforgiving, rapacious and violent alpha-male estates that exist all over this sad, heartless country. Pity us all.

Ronan Breslin


Strange logic  of the energy markets

I could not believe one of the answers from one of the power company executives appearing before MPs on Tuesday: “The mobile phone companies are making far larger profits than we are.”

You can buy mobile phones at stupid inflated prices, but you can also buy cheap versions at low cost. You do not have to buy a mobile phone, but you have to have energy supplies or you freeze to death. What kind of ivory towers are these executives living in? 

I am afraid Government can no longer sit back. When the cost of living is dropping prices must be held to protect British citizens.

Robin G Howard

Margate, Kent

I fail to understand how utility companies can compete other than by price and service differences – 240 volts at my plug is the same product whoever provides it; similarly with pure water and gas.

Product differentiation is the only real basis for competition. Hence, these services should be run as a national operation with managers judged on private industry performance levels and not the less demanding standards of the Civil Service.

Eric V Evans

Dorchester, Dorset


In Holland, my mother-in-law tells me that her gas and electric bills have been reduced. Perhaps they have their own supply there that’s not dependent on the same market as ours.

How is it that other countries’ governments can invest in and run their own and our gas, electric, water and train services at a profit, whereas our government can’t even run ours? Maybe I’m too stupid to understand it all....

Kate aan de Wiel

London SE21

Having received from British Gas their letter advising of the latest gas price increase, I calculated what my last quarterly bill would have been at the new terms. To check my calculation, I rang the 0800 number. At the outset I was told the wait was 15 minutes, it turned out to be 35.

Eventually, with some help from me, the assistant confirmed my calculation. Her initial effort, from her chart, was to say my bill would have been almost 150 per cent more than I paid. In actual fact the increase is 17.6 per cent, bad enough and some way above the 8.6 per cent mentioned as typical in BG’s letter.

During the conversation, I was told the tariff shown in the letter was the only one available to all British Gas customers. The one way I could save anything would be to pay by direct debit. Apparently, prompt payment and dual fuel discounts are now banned by the regulator. Incidentally, the assistant who provided this information was in Cape Town.

Is this the competitive, efficient, privatised energy industry we were promised by Thatcher?

Tony Smith

Woking, Surrey

Anyone who believes we all have some right to shirt-sleeve warmth through the winter hasn’t grasped that the age of cheap fossil fuels is over. The debate about keeping fuel bills down underscores the tension between sustainability (long-term) and democracy (short-term). It takes grown-up leadership to reconcile these, by spelling out tough truths.

I am 72 and do not heat my house, except for guests. The appropriate technology for staying warm is to heat only that air actually in contact with one’s skin, by means of thermal clothing.

If astronauts can stay comfortable in the near absolute zero of space by wearing hi-tech clothes, we could easily put up with cold weather if we applied our technology to the challenge, rather than dismiss it all as “putting on a jumper”.

The winter fuel allowance is misapplied. It should be a winter clothing allowance.

Roger Martin

Upper Coxley, Somerset

Remembrance hijacked

How sickening to see David Cameron using the launch of this year’s Poppy Appeal as a photo opportunity – one shudders at the thought of what next year’s First World War “commemorations” might hold for us.

My grandfathers both fought in the First World War trenches. I wear a poppy each year on behalf of them for the comrades they knew who suffered and died. I do not do it because I support British troops fighting wars overseas – and that is a distinction the idea of the beautiful blonde “Poppy Girls” fails to make. It is about commemorating the sufferings on all sides.

In the last few years one has sensed a desire by politicians to take over the national remembrance for their own political purposes, to establish a subtle link to ongoing conflicts in an attempt to somehow legitimise them.

This year I shall not be buying a poppy in protest – I am certain it is what my grandfathers would wish.

Nigel Cubbage

Merstham, Surrey

All responsible for quality care

Your editorial “Social care: The continuing disgrace of our care homes” (18 October) is right to ask questions about the role of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) through successive scandals (Winterbourne View, Mid-Staffordshire, Orchid View).

As you noted, CQC has not had sufficient resources to do the job expected of it; I am not convinced, however, that an “aggressive culture” is what we want. Don’t we want knowledgeable inspectors who can support well-motivated services to do better, as well as challenge poor practice?

However, regulation and inspection can never be completely relied upon to keep people safe. While regulatory failings surely played a part in these scandals, pointing the finger at CQC allows us to take our eyes off the responsibilities we all have – as friends, relatives and employees – to question poor practice when we see it. Having people who know and care about you involved in your life is the best safeguard.

Alison Giraud-Saunders

Brill, Buckinghamshire

Scapegoat for death of Baby P

It was interesting to read about Ed Balls’s “outrage” at the pay-off to Sharon Shoesmith, Haringey Council’s former Head of Children’s Services. Had Ed Balls not authorised Ms Shoesmith’s unlawful dismissal, one suspects such a pay out would not have been made.

At the time, it seemed clear that Ms Shoesmith was being made the scapegoat for the systemic failures that led to Baby P’s tragic death. I am keen to learn more about what lessons have been learnt by Haringey Council and other local authorities since then.

The Court of Appeal’s decision confirms that Ms Shoesmith was unfairly dismissed. Instead of looking for a scapegoat, the Government and Haringey should have initiated a proper, transparent investigation that would have led to the appropriate disciplinary sanctions for the relevant people.

Shah Qureshi

Head of Employment Law, Bindmans LLP, London WC1

Charming side  of Lou Reed

Like many others, Sir Tom Stoppard felt intimidated by Lou Reed’s brittle persona (“Anti-hero of the Czech underground”, 30 October). My experience was different.

In 2007 and again the next year, I was one of a small group of young singers from the New London Children’s Choir who toured Europe with Reed when he revived his controversial Berlin album to widespread acclaim. He was the very model of charm and politeness. It must have been the yoga, which he often had us perform with him on airport transfer buses, much to the surprise of our fellow travellers.

Elly Brindle

London SW6

Bullying press must be curbed

I am bitterly disappointed to see The Independent’s vociferous objections to the negotiated compromise proposals for press “regulation” (leading article, 29 October). As I understand it, the proposals as they stand will not prevent the press investigating wrongdoing or speaking on issues of importance.  What it should do is provide some sort of redress for those innocents bullied and libelled in the name of “public interest”.

I read The Independent because I respect it, but its whingeing over this issue is fast eroding that respect.

Sara Neill

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Dogs that attack other animals

While Blue Cross supports an increase in penalties for irresponsible dog owners (“Owners of dogs that kill to face longer prison sentences”, 30 October), more action is needed on out-of-control dogs. This includes dealing with dog attacks on other animals.

A dog that injures or kills another pet should be a cause for concern. Allowing or encouraging such behaviour towards a cat, a horse, or another dog is antisocial behaviour and should be considered in this legislation.

Rachel Cunningham

Blue Cross pet charity

Burford, Oxfordshire


Blair’s legacy

In the interview on pages 12 and 13 of Tuesday’s Independent we read that Tony Blair is now advising 20 countries. On page 17 the headline for Patrick Cockburn’s piece is “As Syria disintegrates, so too does Iraq”. Enough said?

Brian Mitchell