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Wednesday 2 May 2012
Letters: Olympic missiles in the wrong place
It is beyond belief that the Ministry of Defence is deploying surface-to-air missiles at sites across London during the Olympics. It is even more astonishing that the proposed sites include residential structures such as the Lexington building in Tower Hamlets and the Fred Wigg Tower in Waltham Forest.
It's outrageous that the authorities want to turn residential buildings into missile launch pads. The Lexington Building alone has 700 residents.
The arguments for deploying these weapons are farcical, but if the MoD is convinced of their necessity why don't they stick their missiles on Canary Wharf? The complex boasts some of the tallest buildings in Europe. The tower at 1 Canada Square rises to 771 feet. It's very close to the main Olympic site. Is it that the authorities don't want to inconvenience or endanger the banks and financiers that use Canary Wharf?
In times gone by I thought the Olympics were mostly about sporting excellence. Today, with a budget of £11bn and the cost of security alone at £1bn (including attack aircraft, assault ships and ground-to-air missiles), with the bill mostly funded by the taxpayer in times of severe economic constraint, I ask myself, what it is all about.
The Olympics has become the biggest show on earth, with each host city and country vying to be seen as more creative and more generous than the one before. The discussions leading up to the event seem to focus on security, drug use and whether or not there will be a legacy.
So is it not time to cut the nonsense and privatise the Olympics? That way business can do what it does best, at no cost to the tax payer, and professional athletes can pursue their professions.
A complete lack of consideration for visitors arriving in our country is already demonstrated all too frequently at Heathrow's border controls. As the Olympics approach, I predict that the following will occur with the inevitability of a Greek tragedy: spurious assurances from UK Border Force that they are on top of the situation, believed by nobody; major fiascos as queues build up in July and August; a subsequent inquiry report saying that "lessons have been learnt".
This might be averted if the Prime Minister were to state that both ministers and civil servants will be sacked if the fiasco materialises and our national reputation ends up being dragged through the mud.
South Warnborough, Hampshire
As an incentive to having missiles stationed on their roofs during the Olympics, residents of east London should be offered free tickets to the men's 100m final.
Time for Plan B? Perhaps, but who can think it up?
It is becoming obvious that the austerity measures of our government is taking are only making matters worse. The more they cut, the longer the recession goes on biting. We are getting deeper into a hole; so stop digging.
The idea of clearing the deficit immediately should be modified so that we invest in work and industry. My mortgage took 20 years to clear, but I am now living comfortably in my house, having found time for the occasional holiday along the way. Let us reduce the deficit, as we must, but surely we can do it in less haste, without bringing economy to a stop.
David Cameron's warning that our economic recovery will be slow and painful was undeniable, but his comments regarding the eurozone fell a little short of the truth. Of course the recession in our main trading partners is bound to have a detrimental effect on our economy. And the eurozone's problems will not be resolved until the euro is dismantled; the common currency always was unworkable.
However, the main reason that the UK is still in recession is the problems left by Labour's criminally incompetent mismanagement of our economy. Their toxic legacy includes massive government debt, a runaway deficit, unprecedented levels of private debt, a bloated corporate sector and more people than ever dependent on means-tested benefits.
Printing money (QE) temporarily disguised the depth of the recession, but it was always going to take years to turn the situation round.
Owen Jones argues that the Labour Party "is hobbled by Blairite ultras with no interest in a genuine alternative" to Tory economic policies ("It's up to Miliband to offer us a coherent Plan B", 27 April). How right he is. "Blairites" may be their current manifestation, but the pro-capitalism right-wing of the Labour Party have denuded it of any alternative ideas over many years.
Labour Party conference decisions ignored. Trade unions kept at arm's length. Sucking up to Murdoch and the other press barons – remember Robert Maxwell? A social housing crisis with disregard for calls to stop the sale of council houses. And repeated support for employers' calls for pay "restraint" while bailing out our thankless bankers.
And those retired Blairites, ensconced in the House of Lords, leading the battle against an elected second chamber probably don't see their elevation to the peerage as their reward for their subservience to capitalism. But that's what it is. Ed Miliband faces a massive task if he wishes to rid the Labour Party of these elements, but there is no alternative.
Tim Stone (letter, 1 May) makes the same mistake as Margaret Thatcher did, in comparing the economics of countries to household budgets.
The economics of countries behave much more like that of companies. If as a small businessman I borrow money and take on extra workers, there is every chance that my income will increase. Most families are on fixed incomes, so the same does not apply. And when a country invests, it can expect to see its tax revenue increase, and some costs, such as jobseeker's allowance, decrease, something that happens neither in companies nor families.
The meaning of long grey locks
I am puzzled that people are taking issue with the number of grey-haired ladies (including at least one presenter of a TV series) who choose to wear their hair long and flowing (letter, 1 May).
Is there some age at which ladies should cut their hair short, or is it more to do with the degree of greyness of their hair? Perhaps there is a complicated formula requiring hair to be cut increasingly shorter, based on a combination of age and greyness. Is there a similar rule for men and ponytails (grey or otherwise) and does it take into account the amount of bald pate?
I am also puzzled that these people think that ladies might be wearing their grey hair long in an effort to look younger. Why would anyone think long grey hair would make them look younger?
I don't know what's worse: the fact that Doraine Potts took the time to write a hateful letter implying that Professor Mary Beard looks like a "bag-lady" because she dares to have grey hair and wear it how she pleases, or the fact that someone at The Independent deemed this ageist drivel worthy of publication.
Newtownabbey, Co Antrim
Doraine Potts wonders if long grey hair is "a style statement – bag-lady chic? Or do they simply not realise that it does not make them look any younger?" Here's a third option – maybe they're adults, and don't actually care very much about such trivialities?
My grey long hair makes the statement that, at nearly 61, I am confident, happy and wise enough to aspire to more than "looking younger".
Spare us Gove's 'golden age'
Gove is at it again. As a product of the "golden age" of the Sixties much beloved of our current education policy maker ("'Golden age' never happened, head teachers' leader tells Gove", 30 April), I don't want to go back to an era in which pupils were coached for 11-plus success, and stigmatised as failures if they did not "pass". We are almost there anyway with our norm-referenced league tables.
Here's a more modern education philosophy for Mr Gove. All children can do, but some need more time and informed teaching support – which does not make them failures or deficits. Bullying teachers to conform to your standards only increases the feeling of failure for both teachers and children.
Professor Bill Boyle
School of Education, University of Manchester
Current GCSE and A-level pass rates remind me of Soviet production figures. Heard about the civil servant who's in serious trouble? He's lost next year's exam results.
Need a seat? Just ask
Susan Stern's heavily pregnant daughter tweets her frustration when nobody offers her a seat (letter, 1 May). Back when I commuted to work on the Tube I confess I rarely noticed if a pregnant lady got on and needed a seat. This did change when my wife was pregnant and I became more aware of others in similar need.
However, though I and others would often not notice somebody needing a seat I have never known anyone to refuse a polite request for one.
Pregnant women travelling on a crowded Tube and desperate for a seat can always ask. As I boarded a very crowded Tube with a 94-year-old friend the other day, I asked loudly: "Would anyone be kind enough to give this lady a seat?" And you know what? Almost the entire carriage stood up, smiling.
Most people are nice; they just don't know if you will be cross if they offer you their seat. Give it a try. Let's all stop being wary of each other.
Appearances do not lie
I too was taught at an early age that appearances could be deceptive (Howard Jacobson, 28 April). After a few decades of life, however, my experiences have been that, for the most part, looks are indeed a reflection of the individual.
Jeremy Hunt appears to be cocky and too good to be true and seems likely to be proved just that. He will be forced to retire from the Cabinet just as Chris Huhne was, and for the same reason, doubts about his integrity.
If I might add a contribution to Roy Evans's "posh-speak" (letter, 1 May), how about "I sh'ink" for "I should think"? It's a favourite of both the Prince of Wales and his father.
From this week it costs 87p to send a letter to Germany. From Germany to the UK it costs 75 cents (62p) – fully 25p less. The Royal Mail describes its new prices as "incredible value for money", and indeed they are.
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