Liam Fox casually dismisses any concerns about the legality of the drone killings of the two British men in Syria as “spurious”, even describing some of the anger that it has sparked as “synthetic” (Voices, 10 September). Yet at the same time, he appears puzzled about the nature of the “forces that have produced such loathing of our people”.
Does he not understand that the killing of one or two headline “terrorists” will do absolutely nothing to reduce any threat to our national security, but on the contrary, is likely only to increase it? What is going on in the Middle East is not just two or three people behaving like serial killers, who can be taken out like rats. It is a mass movement, inevitably inflamed by religious dogma, that seeks to redress what it sees as persistent and ongoing interference in the region by outside interests.
It is extreme and brutal, as such revolutions often are, and attracts fellow travellers and sympathisers, as such movements often do, but from a larger perspective than that offered by Liam Fox’s narrow nationalism, is an entirely predictable reaction to the century of Machiavellian meddling that the UK has been and continues to be party to.
We cannot hope to “win” this kind of asymmetric battle by killing specific individuals in an extrajudicial manner that only makes a nonsense of our claim to respect the rule of law. Such individuals can easily be replaced. If we want to do something to halt the tide of consequences that are now literally washing up on our own shores, the international community must take responsibility for what is happening on its watch and actively seek out a political accommodation with those whose deep sense of righteous anger will never be stemmed until we do.
The time has come for the West and Russia to co-operate on Syria and Iraq. They have a common goal,the elimination of Isis. John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov should immediately commence discussions on forming an equal, joint military force to destroy Isis as their two nations destroyed Nazism in the Second World War. Saudi Arabia and Iran should be pressured to join positively in this military action.
Such joint action could only improve relations betwee Nato and Russia in eastern Europe, and hopefully stop the steady slide to a new Cold War.
We must not weaken our suicide laws
Hannah Fearn is right to remind us that “assisted death is really assisted suicide” (Voices, 9 September). It should be noted that some campaigning for “assisted death” can also have the effect of encouraging unassisted suicides.
There are dozens if not hundreds of men and women who have ended their lives using methods recommended by campaigners such as Derek Humphry in the US or Philip Nitschke in Australia. We know that irresponsible reporting can lead to suicide contagion.
It should be no surprise that data from the handful of US states that have legalised “assisted death” show high and rising rates of unassisted suicide which have not been mitigated by the ever-increasing rates of physician-assisted suicide.
If we are serious about preventing suicide, the last thing we should do is weaken the law against assisting or encouraging it.
Dr David Albert Jones
Director, The Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Oxford
I smell a rat in this Labour ballot
I have recently been excluded from Labour’s leadership election, yet I have voted Labour at every general election since 1974, and have campaigned for proportional representation for decades and, more recently, for a progressive left-green alliance that co-operates electorally to defeat the Conservatives.
It appears that routinely voting Labour in general elections doesn’t constitute being “a Labour supporter”, whereas taking the country into an illegal war that costs hundreds of thousands of lives, and publicly advocating not voting for a Corbyn-led Labour Party in 2020, does.
Along with many others, I find this grossly insulting, and am beginning to smell a gerrymandering rat. If there is any whiff of a fiddled stitch-up when the leadership result is announced, and Jeremy Corbyn is robbed of a legitimate victory, the Labour Party won’t know what has hit it, in terms of legal challenges in the courts – challenges which will be supported (financially, if necessary) by hundreds of thousands of voters across the land.
Dr Richard House
Labour is a venerable British institution, rather like our dear Queen. But in its present state, the question has to be asked: could it organise a party in a brewery, let alone run the country? The leadership election has been a fiasco verging on farce.
Once upon a time things were more straightforward. Only MPs could vote, and that arrangement produced a steady stream of competent and moderate people: Attlee, Gaitskell, Wilson and Callaghan. Now things seem purpose built to encourage entryism and a leftward lurch. Maybe we should be asking Shirley Williams and David Owen for their advice on how to proceed.
The lights are going out for solar power
Your readers need to know that the Government is currently pulling the plug on the UK’s most popular source of energy, namely solar power. Since early July, there have been no fewer than six highly damaging policy announcements.
The latest, which proposes to reduce solar feed-in tariffs by up to 87 per cent, all but guarantees the closure of the scheme in 2016, as consumers rush to install before the tariffs drop. Whether it’s solar farms, new-build standards or loans for those on low incomes, the various moves will decimate what has become a shining success story in the energy sector.
Solar power is a home-grown, clean, fuel and carbon-free source of energy, and we calculate that an ambitious deployment programme would cost consumers no more than £1 a month in 2020. Solar costs have fallen by over 70 per cent in the past five years. What is most sad is that, were the Government to continue its support for just five more years, solar would then be able to compete without subsidy.
With support killed off now, companies will be forced to lay off staff and go into liquidation, losing all of the crucial experience that has been gained since 2010. Our industry can hardly believe what the Government is doing.
We also disagree profoundly with the justification that is being given. Solar will be the cheapest energy source in due course. It will literally put power in the hands of the people, and the Government has the opportunity to make it one of its greatest achievements. We call on it to think again and work with us, not against us.
Head of policy, Solar Trade Association, London WC2
Glencore's holdings should be limited
I’m happy to comply with Chris Blackhurst’s request not to weep for Glencore (Voices, 10 September). However, his article did highlight a more sinister situation, which is yet another result of light-touch City regulation: that of the ability of organisations to have large holdings of commodities.
In the most recent case, Glencore, seemingly reacting to shareholder discontent, has suspended two copper mining operations. The net result will be, as reported in The Independent, widespread local hardship as miners are laid off. The other, more significant result will be – because of the volume of Glencore’s holdings – to force up the price of copper, thus improving its balance sheet. It is not the first time that this sort of thing has happened; we have seen the same taking place with oil and coffee, for example, but it suggests that holdings in commodities should be limited by law to a small percentage of total world stock, rather than large holdings being used to manipulate commodity values, resulting in serious hardship and falsely inflated prices.
A toast to Bill Deedes
Jane Merrick (9 September) explains Bill Deedes’s immortal phrase “marmalade dropper” as “a newspaper story so shocking that it makes you drop your jar of preserve on to the kitchen table”. I have always believed that it meant that a buttered, marmaladed slice of toast was stopped in shock halfway to the mouth, tilted at such an angle that the preserve dripped off the toast and on to the lap.
The Tories are still the nasty party
The reports about the disgusting Chris Grayling court “reforms” led me to ask myself whether such an atrocity could ever be considered by a Corbyn-led government. Clearly not. The Tories are still the nasty party, and will suffer for it in due course.
South Harrow, Middlesex