The predictable band of corporatists who claim that leaving the European Union would be a mistake because it would put “politics before economics” (letter, 20 May) have, as one would expect, no concept of democratic sovereignty. We eurosceptics put national democracy before corporate profit.
Those who have really put politics before economics are in fact eurofederalists and businessmen – with the predicted disasters visited upon Irish, Greeks, Spanish and Italians.
Rodney Atkinson, Stocksfield, Northumberland
Nick Bion (letter, 20 May) asks what laws would change if we were to leave the EU. A topical example would be the forthcoming ban on shared olive oil bottles on restaurant tables.
This will increase waste in both olive oil and packaging and will stop restaurants serving higher quality olive oils whose manufacturers cannot afford to produce the individual portions.
Even Danny Alexander thinks this is a silly idea. We already have strong food hygiene regulations and I am not aware of a national epidemic of people being poisoned by restaurant olive oil from bottles.
This example is a small one. The wider issue is that somewhere in the depths of the Brussels bureaucracy there is a department thinking up things like this. Had it come from our own civil service, Danny Alexander could have added his weight to the general opinion and it would have been dropped. As it is, there are no political channels to tell those who thought this up not to be so daft.
Julian Gall, Godalming, Surrey
I would have thought a huge number of British people would be very upset to see an end to the endless supply of cheap wine and beer bought in Calais superstores.
Never mind the cheaper groceries, electrical goods, and even cars, which can be bought at a fraction of the UK price on the continental mainland at present.
What happens when customs limits are restored and duty is payable on the excesses? Why is this never mentioned? It may be frivolous – but so are almost all the arguments against the EU.
Elspeth Christie, Alston, Northumberland
D Stewart (letter, 20 May) is of course right; the EU today “is not what [he] and millions of others voted for in 1975”; as was inevitable, it has evolved. Whether Britain remains in or out it will continue to exist, evolve and impact on our lives.
Inside the EU our elected representatives have opportunities to influence the direction of that evolution; were the UK to leave they’d have none.
Brian Hughes, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Criticism of Israel or hatred of Jews?
First-rate writer and columnist though he is, Howard Jacobson cannot resist conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Israelism (18 May).
Yet the big question about Israel’s hopes to continue as a Jewish state depend not on boycotts or on motions passed by a university union, but on how Israel will in future govern a non-Jewish-majority population if it fails now to accept a two-state solution when there is still – perhaps – time.
Brian Beeley, Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Israel doesn’t “just happen to be Jewish”, Howard Jacobson. In fact the current demography of Israel results from its policy of replacing Palestinian society with people from a Jewish background.
The building and expansion of Jewish-only illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank is a continuation of this policy.
Janet Green, London NW5
Howard Jacobson is absolutely right that the Palestinian movement has always had its anti-Semitic infiltrators. It is deeply dispiriting because it utterly contradicts the principal motive that drives the movement: the injustice implicit in the progressive dispossession and lockdown of a defenceless people.
A growing number of young Jews support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign as a vehicle for getting Israel to disgorge the occupied territories, since the US and its allies are so disinclined to compel Israel to respect international humanitarian law.
They seem to do this for a number of reasons ranging from the pragmatic – Israel has swallowed more than it can digest – to the moral – the violation of Judaic morality in which, contrary to Mr Jacobson’s take, they identify the Palestinians as the persecuted party.
David McDowall, Richmond, Surrey
Howard Jacobson has had the courage to expose the hypocritical anti-Semitism at the heart of the Israel boycott campaign of the University and College Union.
This will no doubt result in hate mail and worse, but may stimulate some academics to re-examine this highly selective boycott and instead support dialogue with Israeli counterparts, many of whom voice valid criticism of some Israeli government policies.
Ben Marshall, London N11
You report that Lord Ahmed “resigned from the Labour Party on Monday evening over allegations that he made anti-Semitic comments in a television interview”.
If, as he claims, he “was not anti-Semitic” and had not “blamed his 2009 prison sentence ... on pressure placed on the courts by Jews ‘who own newspapers and TV channels’ ”, he should have welcomed the opportunity to clear his name before Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee rather than aborting their investigation by leaving the party.
Martin D Stern, Salford, Greater Manchester
May flirts with cruel US ‘justice’
I am writing in response to Theresa May’s appalling and draconian assertion that police killers should be given life in prison without parole. Her argument that “to attack and kill a police officer is to attack the fundamental basis of our society” is thin on philosophical truth to say the least.
Since when does the life of a police officer, who voluntarily partakes in an inherently hazardous occupation, out-value the life of a defenceless child, tortured for months until death, as in the case of Baby P to name just one?
Do we expect a misguided 18-year-old who, during a heated confrontation, kills a police officer, to understand the importance of the idea that a society is held together by laws and that the police are there to defend those laws? Should such a person be condemned to 70-80 years in prison for a momentary act of foolishness?
Of course police defend the laws which prevent our society descending into chaos, but it is to our credit as a developed nation that we allow wrongdoers a second chance; this is essential to the deep psychological wellbeing of all members of society.
If we are not careful we may find we are moving towards a system of “justice” similar to that of the United States, limitlessly unforgiving and cruel.
The potential severity of punishment does not prevent people from committing crime, it is the fear of getting caught. So although it may satisfy the desires of the sadists who want to punish, punish and punish again, it will do nothing to stop crimes of this nature occurring.
Paul Thwaites, Derby
Flood of nonsense
You report “Sea levels rising so fast, London faces significant risk of flooding without Thames Barrier upgrade” (15 May). Unless London’s flood defences are reinforced, storm surges could regularly overwhelm the Thames Barrier by the end of the century according to latest research.
The Mayor of London must urgently revise his flood-defence policies which currently rank tidal flooding as a low risk, and thereby underestimate this looming threat from the sea.
However, given Boris Johnson’s personal views that sunspots and not human activity are the main cause of climate change, and that we are heading towards a mini ice age, despite overwhelming scientific consensus showing the exact opposite, this may prove to be a major obstacle to the scale of action that is required to safeguard London and its inhabitants.
Jenny Jones AM , Green Party Group, London Assembly
Retirement suits me fine
One of the benefits of retirement is having the time to read reports such as that by the Institute of Economic Affairs (16 May), which tells me how bad retirement is for my health.
I found it hugely unconvincing. So many other factors apply – financial status, education, diet, personal relationships, location, interests, social activity. Of course, we have health issues – we are getting older. Of course, these health issues are likely to increase the longer we live.
But speaking as someone whose lifestyle is immeasurably healthier, more fulfilling and fun since retirement, even from a job I loved, I am definitely of the school of “don’t knock it till you’ve tried it”.
Carolyn Slater, Lucca, Tuscany, Italy
The victims of sex abuse
The most serious question to be asked about the Oxford and other sex-grooming cases, is how our society continues to produce the prey for these sex predators in such numbers and then leaves them exposed. The fact that so many girls are in such need of love and attention that they turn to dubious males is surely a huge indictment.
Our traditional values must be sadly wanting if these girls are brought up with so little self-esteem that they are seduced by trinkets and drinks.
P A Reid, Wantage, Oxfordshire
What is a lobbyist?
Your leading article “Where’s the register of lobbyists?” (14 May) is right. The Queen's Speech should have included legislation to bring the lobbying industry under control. Self-regulation has clearly failed.
We need an agreed definition of what constitutes a lobbyist. Too many so-called think-tanks, for example, are really lobbyists. There is nothing innately dishonourable about lobbying, you say, provided it’s done openly. Yes, but the services of such people aren’t usually available to all of us, only those with funds.
Dr Alex May, Manchester
“Breakthrough in IVF treatment could triple number of births” (17 May). There’s a spot of good news for an underpopulated planet.
Peter Forster, London N4