The current agony in Ukraine highlights the incompetence of the EU’s “diplomacy”, and in particular the over-promoted Baroness Ashton and her absurd office.
The ludicrously premature entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the EU raised unwise and impossible expectations in western Ukraine. But to ignore the failures and corruption of Ukraine’s leadership since the Orange Revolution, the special status of Crimea and the mindsets of the ex-KGB rulers of Russia, and to expect Ukraine to move almost seamlessly out of the Russian sphere of influence and towards “Europe” overnight, without even any EU financial aid, displayed a worrying level of ignorance and naivety.
Sensible negotiations for gradually increasing ties with the EU should have kept Russian interests in the loop, including some benefits to Russia such as a renewed pledge that Ukraine would not join Nato, as we promised Gorbachev. But currently the strident rhetoric of the western democracies seems bent on exceeding even our Syrian own-goals, and as long as we follow the Blair/Brown policy of significant dependence on Russian oil and gas, Putin will reign supreme.
John Birkett, St Andrews, Fife
US Secretary of State John Kerry has criticised the Russian movement of troops into the Crimean region of Ukraine, as breaching international law.
Is he representing the same United States government that daily sends drones over Pakistan, against the will of Pakistan’s government, to kill Pakistan nationals with remotely fired missiles; that has had occupying troops in Afghanistan for over a decade; that had occupying troops in Iraq for a decade; that assisted France and the UK with military logistics to invade Libya to remove President Gadaffi’s regime; that still retains military bases in Germany and Japan 60 years after the end of the Second World War; and is covertly assisting opposition forces in Syria to depose its government?
I only ask.
Dr David Lowry, Stoneleigh, Surrey
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, is of Scottish descent, like William Gladstone, Arthur Balfour, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Bonar Law, Stanley Baldwin, Ramsay Macdonald, Harold Macmillan, Alec Douglas-Home, Tony Blair, and Gordon Brown. The Prime Minister supports Scotland, part of the UK for 300 years, having a referendum on secession without consulting the rest of the UK.
Will Mr Cameron support the people of the autonomous republic of Crimea, only part of Ukraine since 1954, in their wish for a referendum on secession without interference from the rest of Ukraine? Similarly, if other parts of eastern and or southern Ukraine wish to secede without reference to the wishes of Kiev, will Mr Cameron support them?
At least with the Crimea and parts of eastern and southern Ukraine there is a common language and culture not shared with Kiev. This is in contrast to Britain where there is a common language and the Scots have dominated the political life of the nation for well over 100 years.
Robert Milligan, Dover
What does ‘creative writing’ create?
It’s fair enough to debate the value of creative writing courses (“Creative courses a waste of time, says Kureishi”, 4 March). However, my experience at Bath Spa University is not like that of Hanif Kureishi
The students on our creative writing MA are talented and focused. Our courses have close links with the publishing industry and many graduates find agents and publishing deals. Only last month, one of our graduates who now lectures at the University won the Costa Book of the Year Award.
Quite apart from the commercial aspect, creative writing students are being encouraged to tell stories that matter to them, sometimes stories they have long wanted to tell – and that means no one is wasting their time.
Maggie Gee, Professor of Creative Writing, Bath Spa University
I challenge the supporters of “creative writing” courses to name one celebrated classic author who studied “creative writing”. Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and all the rest just did it.
Closer to our time, the likes of Barbara Taylor Bradford, Frederick Forsyth and H E Bates learned their craft on the job as journalists.
No really talented writer needs to undertake a course in their craft. A society desperately short of scientists and engineers should leave writing to the “naturals” and concentrate on encouraging people to take up subjects that will give them a greater chance of success.
Robert Duncan Martin, Upper Harbledown, Kent
How child sex laws were tightened
Having lived through the late 1970s and carried out further research with a view to writing a book, it is clear to me that in trying to slur Harriet Harman, the Daily Mail is being misleading (“The great British paedophilia infiltration campaign”, 27 February).
If you go back to the beginning of 1978, you will find that child pornography was legal and even having sex with children was not considered a serious matter as long as they consented. Early that year, brothers aged 67 and 69 were found guilty of having sex with girls aged 12 to 15, but they were only fined and given a suspended prison sentence.
Around this time Cyril Townsend, Tory MP for Bexleyheath, was pushing a private member’s Bill through the House of Commons that made taking indecent photographs or films of children under 16 illegal, with fines of up to £10,000 and a prison sentence of up to three years.
Mr Townsend received no support from the Home Office, who were unhelpful and raised a number of objections. His Bill seemed destined to fail, but around this time the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) was getting maximum publicity and it became clear the general public found its proposals abhorrent. Voters then pressed their MPs to do something to stop PIE and it was this pressure that led to child pornography becoming illegal. In a strange way we should thank PIE, as it managed to achieve the exact opposite of what it campaigned to achieve.
As Harriet Harman was not involved with PIE, nor ever campaigned on their behalf, she has no reason to apologise for anything.
Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey
GMT and a trick of the light
David Bracey (letter, 5 March) says that moving the start of British Summer Time to February would give us an extra hour of daylight. It would make no difference to the number of hours of daylight; he means that it would give us lighter evenings.
I was going to school in the North of England during the experiment with British Standard Time in the 1960s, when our clocks were an hour ahead of GMT all year. I recall many mornings where it was still dark for the first lesson of the day.
Using the date of the equinoxes is not the full story. Twenty-four hours is only an average length for the solar day, the time between two successive occurrences of the Sun crossing the meridian. As the Earth is tilted on its axis and its orbit is not exactly circular, solar noon does not occur at exactly 12:00 every day. Although the winter solstice is the shortest day (in terms of hours of daylight) the evenings have by then been getting lighter for over a week. To get evenings in spring as light as in autumn would require putting the clocks forward in January.
Paul Dormer, Guildford
Listen to the prostitutes
What muddled thinking we have from our legislators on prostitution (“MPs urge Scandinavian-style laws on prostitution”, 3 March). The only intelligent contribution came from “Gemma”, the one prostitute interviewed for your report.
There are criminal acts that become entangled with prostitution but they are not an unavoidable part of it. Sex as a commercial transaction need not be exploitative, and it’s patronising to the women to suggest that it always is.
Not all prostitutes are women, and not all punters are men. And how can you possibly have a commodity that is legal to sell and illegal to purchase?
Listen to the prostitutes themselves. They alone seem to understand the problems and what needs to be done to improve things.
Ian Craine, London N15
Of course they are snooping on you
The GCHG spokeswoman’s statement that they are not commenting on anything (letter, 5 March) is merely confirming the obvious.
In a few years there will be no privacy for any form of electronic communication. Technology will outstrip all political attempts at control. If it is possible, someone will do it. The Government will always plead anti-terrorism or commercial considerations to justify the listening or watching.
Meanwhile, be careful what you say or show. If Big Brother is not watching you, someone else is, on his behalf.
Bill Fletcher, Cirencester, Gloucestershire