Letters: Nato invasion hits south Wales

These letters appear in the September 3 edition of The Independent

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The head of Wales’s largest luxury hotel has pointed out that the Nato summit taking place in his hotel is a chance to “showcase Wales”. Well, the best advice we can give to anyone wanting to visit south-east Wales is to stay away or be put off for life.

We’re warned that motorway junctions will be closed without notice, schools throughout the region will be closed, fences surround several venues, including the tourist attraction of Cardiff castle, and major arteries in Cardiff will be closed.

This is not an opportunity for anyone other than some British and Welsh politicians to gain kudos from the prestige of hosting world leaders. They’ll rub shoulders and have a damned good jolly before, as we all know, disappearing for ever, never to be seen again or give us lot a second thought.

The taxpayers of the world are paying a fortune for this nonsense, when Nato has perfectly sound and secure premises in Brussels and elsewhere they could use for a fraction of the cost. Instead, they choose to roll around in a multi-billion pound jamboree  where even the journalists are to be treated a “reception” in a local stately home. Contemptuous of the locals they then offer the advice, on the eve of the meeting, that we have an opportunity to showcase the area.

Utter rubbish. My advice is to follow me and go to North Wales.

DVB Thomas
Usk, Gwent


Surely these summits should be hosted in isolated, easily securable “neutral” zones. Perhaps Diego Garcia or Guantanamo Bay should be the permanent base  for such gatherings in future, because the people of south-east Wales certainly wouldn’t welcome another one.

John Moore


Free school meals for all

This week, for the first time, all infant school pupils should be able to sit down to enjoy a free, nutritious school meal. This achievement is the culmination of years of hard, patient work by charities, trade unions and others. It’s also a testament to the power of politicians, of all parties, to touch the lives of ordinary families and improve life-chances by tackling child poverty.

The case for universal free school meals is compelling and the evidence clear: all children benefit, but low-income children benefit the most. Universal free school meals will improve nutrition and raise educational attainment. They will put pounds into the pockets of parents struggling to maintain living standards. They will mean 200,000 poor children in working families, previously ineligible for help, are eligible for free school meals. They could also help to banish the stigma of free school meals. 

The councils already doing this struggle to remember the painful process of getting schools and kitchens ready with only a few months’ notice. Instead they talk about watching kids eating together and learning together. Teachers report improved concentration in classrooms. Head teachers have seen an increase in pupil premium registrations. Parents talk about being able to move into work without worrying about their children losing free school meals.

We look forward to seeing the success of this change, and hope to see it being offered to all school children.

Alison Garnham
Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group

Celia Sands
Strategic Manager, 4 in 10

Dr Colin Michie
Chair, Royal College of Paediatrics Nutrition Committee

Christine Blower
General Secretary, NUT

David Holmes
Chief Executive, Family Action

Anne Longfield
Chief Executive, 4Children

Brian Strutton
National Secretary, GMB

Fiona Weir
Chief Executive, Gingerbread


Sleepwalking into war over Ukraine?

As the centenary of the First World War has been commemorated we have heard many times the phrase “sleepwalking into war”. All the signs are there that we are doing the same now – for Serbia read Ukraine – but the consequences could be even more cataclysmic.

In your pages over the last few days we have read “Nato to stockpile weapons on Russian border” and “Nato readies rapid-reaction spearhead force in response to Russian intervention – with sizeable British contingent”. We have also seen highly aggressive views from Ian Birrell and in particular from Richard Shirreff, writing in The Independent on Sunday.

The latter says: “It means a return to deterrence, both conventional and nuclear, with credible, capable armed forces and the will and means to communicate that capability so that Putin is left in no doubt that if he steps over the Nato line, he will get hammered”.

What on earth are we doing? Why has Nato expanded up to Russia’s borders contrary to treaty? The Baltic states and Poland are hardly the North Atlantic. What if the USSR had done the same in Mexico and Canada? Don’t we remember the Cuban missile crisis? Let’s not forget the mischief-making by the EU in Ukraine and the subsequent coup supported by the West against a democratically elected (albeit corrupt) government.

Surely it is now the responsibility of our leaders to wake up? Why aren’t Obama, Putin and Cameron meeting with the other leaders of the UN Security Council?

If they don’t wake up then their people have to make them. Blair was able to toss aside the views of 2 million people in the two great marches against the Iraq war. However, recently he has been convinced that the assembly of 17 million in Egypt justified the overthrow of another democratically elected government. If that’s what we have to do we need to start mobilising.

Alan Pearson
Guisborough, Cleveland


Civil rights for British jihadis

Barry Tighe  (Letter, 2 September) seems oblivious to the mortal danger that Isis and returning jihadis pose to this country. Protecting civil liberties is important, but not as important as protecting British citizens from terror. The freedoms that we cherish so dearly are of little use without security.

Stan Labovitch


I’m afraid I don’t share Mary Barnes’ concern that young men returning here from fighting with Islamic State in Syria are likely to be suffering post-traumatic stress and so will need our help (letter, 1 September). Better surely that they stay out there where they are among likeminded friends.

Patrick Devlin
Wembworthy, Devon


Referring to a UK jihadist who wants to return to the UK to wreak havoc here, David Cameron said he intends to take away the passport of anyone who has “pledged allegiance to another state”.

Will that also apply to British Jews returning from a stint of fighting with the Israeli armed forces? In order to participate in the “Mahal” programme, they also have to swear allegiance to a foreign state.

Elizabeth Morley
Trisant, Aberystwyth


Urgent need for a transport strategy

The Davies Report on airport plans sensibly removes the £60bn Thames Estuary Option in its preliminary findings but it is to be hoped that the final report will consider the future of UK aviation (particularly domestic flights) alongside major rail developments such as High Speed Rail and expansion plans for regional airports.

The UK urgently needs an integrated transport strategy to consider the future of all modes of transport both across the UK and internationally.

It is ironic that major multi-billion-pound infrastructure plans are afoot for airports in London when many shire counties cannot afford to foot the minuscule cost of local bus services to enable people to access employment and health facilities.

Dr John Disney
Nottingham Business School


The business of modern sport

David Stansfield suggests that “there is just too much sport in The Independent” (letter, 28 August). Given that present day sport has succeeded in entering the domain of big business rather than the  more laudable encouragement of physical exercise, might it not be more appropriate to move it (12 pages today) to the Business section (six pages today)?

Sidney Alford
Corsham, Wiltshire


The man who would be MP for Uxbridge

Just why is Boris Johnson the best Tory candidate for Uxbridge?

He left his Henley-on-Thames constituency for the London mayoralty, and now wants a parliamentary return for an ill-disguised bid for the Tory leadership and the premiership soon after the next general election.

Surely, Uxbridge Conservatives can field a competent and deserving local candidate?

Dominic Shelmerdine
London SW3