Letters: Olympic warning to politicians

Share

From the first moments of Danny Boyle's spectacular opening ceremony to the final cheers of the crowds lining the streets during Monday's parade, the Olympic summer has given Britons a chance to define the nation we want to live in. The Britain of our collective imagining – proud and inclusive, committed to fair play – is a very different place from the one that recent scandals have exposed.

Our banking system has been shown to be deeply dishonest, while former government ministers boast of being taxis for hire. MPs are caught fiddling their expenses and the hacking scandal has laid bare how corporate power can corrupt even our most trusted institutions.

As the parliamentary recess ends and MPs return to the Palace of Westminster, they would be wise to take note of the altered national mood. It is not some fleeting "feel-good factor" but is instead robustly rooted in national pride, and it is a mood that could easily turn to defiance.

Stefan Simanowitz

London NW3

Apart from the inspiring efforts of the athletes, particularly the Paralympians, there is a valuable lesson to be learnt from the organisation of the Games.

Planning, co-operation and an appeal to the native altruism of people for a common goal works far better than the chaos, incompetence and selfishness that poorly regulated markets generate. This co-operation is the true British way to do things, not the cut-throat competition beloved of the current government.

Chris Haines

Warrington

After the Paralympics last week at the Excel Centre, with several participants who had had their limbs blown off by various kinds of ordnance, how awesome that the Centre's next show is an international arms fair.

Clearly the defence industry is anxious to ensure that participating nations at Rio will have a plentiful supply of limbless contestants. The International Committee for the Paralympics could offer real help for heroes by condemning it in the strongest terms.

David McDowall

Richmond, Surrey

Europe's Paralympic athletes defeated China and the USA added together. This repeats our success in the Olympics. Is not Europe's superiority in other fields as evident, when we are united? Surely we should be.

J P C Bannerman

Bristol

Campaigning for a better kind of democracy

Congratulations on your campaign for democracy (Andreas Whittam Smith, 4 September). Politics, as Aristotle wrote, is the "master science" because politics is how society decides priorities, solves problems and makes rules for everyone. Bankers and big companies can afford lobbyists to campaign for them, but most people feel powerless.

For democracy to be real, people need the confidence, knowledge, skill and contacts to make their voice heard. Accessible education and support for practical politics are vital for a healthy society. Newspapers have an essential role in this. Democracy Matters looks forward to working with The Independent on opening the doors of power to the people.

Titus Alexander

Democracy Matters, Kings Langley, Hertfordshire

Though I am at the bottom of the political food chain, as an assistant to a Member of Parliament, I could probably be classed as a professional politician. I studied politics at university and, aside from a couple of short-term jobs, politics is the only career I have ever known.

Does this mean I lack some vital experience in order to be a good Member of Parliament, should I attempt to become one? I think not. People are not entirely defined by their careers.

I come from one of the poorest cities in the country (Kingston upon Hull) and growing up in such a deprived area politicised me at a young age. I certainly think my background gives me more "life experience" than people who have worked outside politics in fields such as banking, law, or, dare I say, journalism.

If we are trying to get young people interested in politics then this is going to create more professional politicians – and this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Matthew Kay

Parliamentary Assistant to Austin Mitchell MP, London E11

Thank you for Andreas Whittam Smith's article. May I suggest that you go a layer deeper and shine a bright light on the structure behind the processes?

The problem may be that the European nation-state model is discredited for good reasons. Welfare mitigation of misfortune, to help manage personal risks, has morphed into welfare provision against all reverses. This model of state responsibility leads to bankruptcy, as entitlements outstrip the will to pay. We need root-and-branch reform while we still have breathing space.

If this approach has merit then we need to be more tolerant of the human failings of politicians. Most politicians are talented and committed people who work hard to make things better. Our current model of the state makes the task impossibly demanding.

Edward Uren

Salisbury

The church litigant

While the four Christian litigants are having their day in court in Strasbourg, I wonder whether they might take a few minutes to pray for me, an atheist, whose problems with institutionalised and establishment-supported rituals are rarely noticed, let alone addressed ("Christians take battle over wearing crosses to European court", 5 September).

I have to suffer the cloying inanities of the Christmas season and the grotesqueries of Easter, year after year. I am beset by TV and radio programmes of a religious persuasion, mostly Christian. There are days of the week and year when my ability to shop or travel freely is restricted because of the supernatural sensitivities the litigants and their fellow believers. I cannot rely on Parliament passing laws without high-ranking officers of the Church of England adding their two-pennyworth in the House of Lords.

I will not, however, be approaching the courts in relation to my plight. Being of a stoical nature I will just get on with life and make the best of it. I wonder what it is in the nature of Christian belief which prevents the Strasbourg four from, as I might have expected, turning the other cheek and forgiving those whom they now pursue at law.

Barry Butler

Birmingham

Robert Pellegrinetti asks why "everyone has to agree" with The Independent on matters such as contraception, divorce and homosexuality (letter, 8 September). The whole point of freedom of expression is that no one has to agree with anyone. His mind-set exposes the ex cathedra nature of the church's pronouncements. I would rather listen the voice of an "ephemeral newspaper" that at least acknowledged and reflected the evolving nature of society, than be harangued by a organisation still living in the Middle Ages.

Stan Broadwell

Bristol

Oxbridge not for the likes of you

Cambridge University's admissions tutor is right to challenge this government's patronising view that standards have to be lowered so that we smelly proles can have a chance of getting into a stone or redbrick university ("Easier entries would be cruel, warns Cambridge", 10 September). The real reason why so few bright working class kids apply to top universities is the same as it was 50 years ago: lower-middle-class teachers actively discourage us from applying.

More to the point, working folk, via the TUC and community leaders, have never asked for lower standards. This is because we want to be judged on our merits as scholars, not whether we know which wines to drink at High Table. If the Con-Dem government really wants to get more working class kids into Oxbridge – and it might – then it needs to tackle the deliberate misinformation given to bright workers at school.

Chris Youett

Coventry

Give back that palace

Italian campaigners may want the Mona Lisa in the Louvre to be returned to Florence (report, 8 September), but their argument seems thin, given that the work is a piece of portable art, unlike the Parthenon marbles which were an integral part of a building.

It might be better to ask that the equally important Palazzo Farnese in Rome be relinquished by the French Embassy occupiers and wholly returned to the Italian state. In 1936 the Mussolini government granted a 99-year lease to the French (for an annual fee of about 1 euro). The magnificent building is a major example of Renaissance architecture dating from 1517 and is the work of Sangallo the Younger, Michelangelo, Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, and Giacomo della Porta, and contains frescoes by Annibale Caracci, Daniele da Volterra and others.

D E Wahlberg

Rome

Entente cordiale

The article by Lucy Wadham on the differences between French and British world views (11 September) was percipient, but it may be worth also mentioning that it is simply not true that the "French are deeply disliked" by British people. Many British people think of France as a second home and we visit it for holidays more than any other country.

But what is very sadly true is that much of the British press, by and large insular in so many ways, enjoys looking down on and mocking the French, and indeed all foreigners.

Chris Wickham

London W4

Nothing brave about burglary

It is inappropriate for Tim Lott to call burglary brave ("It is possible to be a burglar and be brave", 8 September). We regard bravery as commendable, and Judge Bowers' muddled comments weren't intended to commend burglary. It may take guts to engage in any manner of illegal or morally reprehensible actions. How does this alter their character? But, of course, it would make sense to call brave any burglar who risked his life rescuing trapped residents from earthquake, fire or flood.

Richard Bryden

Llandudno

US rushes for the Afghan exit

With the transfer of Bagram air base to Afghan control, we are once again reminded of the parallels with the Vietnam War. Creeping involvement, escalating violence at the expense of the population, and now a hurried transfer of powers as the Americans rush for the exits whilst seeking meaningless promises from the enemy to provide the moral cover for their desertion. Let's hope the generals have learnt that nation building requires consensus, not conflict.

Ian McKenzie

Lincoln

Strike call

Does Steve Richards ("Strike threats just show how out of touch the unions now are", 11 September) not realise that many unemployed people are not that thrilled at the prospect of getting work these days, given the poverty wages and long hours? This is why union leaders, elected by their members, usually with much bigger mandates than our politicians (or Richards), are talking about having to take strike action. 

David Wainwright

Leicester

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The influx of hundreds of thousands of eastern European workers has significantly altered the composition of some parts of Britain  

Immigration is the issue many in Labour fear most

Nigel Morris
The Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf heads the inquiry  

Why should Fiona Woolf be expected to remember every dinner date?

Mark Steel
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again