Letters: Perspectives after the referendum

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The ruthless right has tasted blood

If nothing else, last week's referendum vote demonstrates that the Tories have taken on board in full the Rovian techniques of the Tea Party and their lunatic friends on the Republican fringe: keep it personal; keep it nasty; reduce everything to the lowest common denominator; make up statistics – nobody's going to check, and if they do, you're still getting good PR when you're invited to argue your point. Above all, never let it be about the issues.

They used the kit, they won and, having tasted blood, they're not about to step back from the formula. This being the case, then the AV referendum was a dry run for a whole different style of politics at the next election, and Nick Clegg is just too good a target. If the Lib-Dems think they're going to be able to reach out in a thoughtful manner to voters who will be being wound up by the attack dogs of the right, they are, at best, naive. Clegg was a good punch-bag this time round; he'll be better next time.

He's an electoral liability of the same magnitude as was Gordon Brown, and for that reason alone, he has to stand down and let someone else electable take his place, sooner rather than later. It's sad, but that's politics. He gambled and he lost. For the sake of a nation that can't afford indefinite Tory rule, he has to go.

Manda Scott, Clungunford, Shropshire

A vote against referendums

Thursday 5 May was a bad day for democracy. In 1975 the 64.5 per cent turn-out in the referendum on the European Community was spoken of as an indication that British voters didn't like referendums. Now, after years of declining public trust in the probity of MPs, in the first opportunity in nearly four decades to make a decision on a key issue without it being warped, mangled and misrepresented by Parliament, the turn-out is not even two-thirds of what it was in 1975.

There are several reasons for this. The case for proportional representation was hijacked by partisans of the unattractive and virtually untried AV method, without any visible pretence at public consultation. There was a silly radio commercial telling us every voter would be sent a leaflet setting out the case for and against AV: I did not receive a copy and neither did anyone else I've spoken to. The intellectual level of the debate on both sides was abysmal. And when the expenditure of the two campaigns, for and against AV, are published, it will no doubt be found that the winning side had a far larger publicity budget than the losers: just as in 1975.

About the only gain from all this is that most of us won't be asked to waste our time in this fashion for another 40 years.

A D Harvey, London N16

Not that stupid

I'm one of the thickoes from the sticks that voted No in the referendum. After all the talk of the No campaign thinking people were too stupid to understand AV, can we have a rest from the Yes campaign (including The Independent) thinking we were too stupid to understand why a system that would deliver even more Liberal Democrat MPs was such a great idea?

Phillip Cole, Professor of Applied Philosophy, University of Wales, Newport

Press hypocrites make a poor case for freedom

Our national press is horrified at the intrusion on freedom that a privacy law would represent, but what, in essence, is the freedom you want? Uncovering corruption, crime, graft and many other things that your various correspondents cite has always given youa solid defence of "public interest" and the recent rulings do absolutely nothing to alter that.

What is left is effectively gossip. An ex-editor of The Sun was paraded on BBC Radio 5 this week, defending like a mini-Voltaire the right of the press to expose to the public, for example, the "decadence" of Max Mosley in leading young women into whipping him. But this is from a man who spent years paying young women to expose their breasts in public.

Until the press faces up to the utter hypocrisy of this position – and The Independent needs to consider if today (11 May) it added substantively to the glory of the Fourth Estate by reporting that someone has a video-recording of an MP farting, or that someone used to be someone else's flatmate – there may be a moral or ethical case to make about the recent privacy rulings, but I feel very queasy about the British press in 2011 being the ones trying to make it.

Jonathan Mumford, Martock, Somerset

The European Court of Human Rights' decision to throw out Max Mosley's bid to change UK law and force newspapers always to warn story subjects prior to publication strikes a blow in favour of freedom of speech and a free press while also offering an opportunity to rationalise Britain's heated debate over media rights and privacy legislation.

There is still the need for a full parliamentary debate on the whole question of what constitutes privacy in today's world of high-speed communication, the internet and social media. It should not be beyond the wit of our politicians, judges and the media to establish agreed guidelines for the courts that generally place the Human Rights Act's commitment to freedom of expression above the right to privacy, rather than the reverse. Better this than trying to draft an all-encompassing and imperfect Privacy Act.

But such an approach would require the tabloids to accept cultural changes. For example, that exposing celebrity indiscretions is only valid when those involved are being truly hypocritical, actively benefiting from peddling a false image of themselves for financial or reputational gain. The soap star, footballer or politician who has never paraded their family for publicity purposes or prattled on about their "perfect" marriage would not be a legitimate target.

Evgeny Lebedev is also surely right to warn that activities such as phone hacking play dangerously into the hands of the enemies of press freedom.

That said, draconian privacy laws or government regulation of the press would not be in the interests of either serious or popular newspapers, let alone the public interest. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that the public is instinctively suspicious of the press being regulated by the Government or over-zealous judges.

The much-criticised European Court may just have opened up the road to a workable British compromise.

Paul Connew, St Albans, Hertfordshire

Dominic Lawson (Opinion, 10 May), says there is a view which says that as footballers and other celebrities are seen by some fans as "role models" their discreditable behaviour, if exposed in the press, is likely to be emulated by fans.

I don't know about other fans but I've never been under any illusion that footballers are angels. This isn't because they are more highly sexed than anyone else but because they have more opportunities, as do politicians and people who work in the media generally.

While I don't think papers should be stopped from printing these "revelations" it is arguable whether most of them are in the public interest.

Steve Lustig, London NW2

The rotten state of our football

I welcome Lord Triesman's claims of corruption in Fifa's Word Cup bidding process. However, before we get all indignant at governance failures within Fifa's ranks we should acknowledge some awkward home truths.

Hugh Robertson, the Sports Minister, has claimed that football is "the worst governed sport in the country". The FA, it is claimed, is bullied by the Premier League, the real power in the English game. The Premier League is not fulfilling its obligation to commit funding to the Football Foundation for grassroots development, even as its revenues grow.

The Premier League manages the world's biggest club football property, which competes for popularity with Fifa's main property, the World Cup. The Premier League and many of its stakeholders frequently undermine international football, some being openly hostile to it. The Premier League and the FA have together presided over a host of regulatory disasters. Charlatans, spivs and even human rights abusers have been allowed to buy clubs and operate in central positions within the business. English football is chronically loss-making and top clubs' debts exceed £3bn.The vulgar excesses of the Premier League have contributed to the destabilisation of traditionally strong football cultures across the world.

Mark Palios, former FA chief executive, has bemoaned the lack of an "Anglo Saxon" culture within Fifa. While he was referring to ethical standards, it must be pointed out that it is precisely the Anglo Saxon regulatory culture that has caused English football's solvency crisis, just as it contributed in large parts to the banking crisis.

Peter Clarke, London NW6

The latest claims by Lord Triesman of corruption surrounding the England bid to host the 2018 Fifa World Cup, while shocking, are not surprising, given that football is not only the world's favourite sport, but also its most lucrative one.

It therefore behoves Sepp Blatter, President of Fifa, to investigate these claims proactively and decisively and get to the bottom of them. He should take a leaf out of the IOC's book with their root-and-branch internal investigation into the Salt Lake City Winter Games bribery scandals.

He should start such an investigation immediately, leaving no stone unturned and showing no favours to anyone, in line with the Fifa motto – for the game and for the world.

Professor Ian Blackshaw, International Sports Law Centre, The Hague

Yet more tax 'spaghetti'

Since its inception a year ago, the Coalition Government has agreed to the repeal of some 43 tax reliefs, but has made or announced a further 200 tax amendments or additions. This is at a time when we have seen the creation of a new government body devoted to the aim of simplification.

It may be in the nature of coalitions that where two parties join together to form a government they have twice as many tax ideas than if a single party were in power. While one might argue about definitions of change, by our reckoning that arch-tinkerer of the tax system Chancellor Gordon Brown made only 130 changes in his 1997 and 1998 Budgets combined.

George Osborne pledged to untangle the UK's "spaghetti bowl" of tax at the start of his term in office, yet the recent reforms mean the Government is taking two steps back for every one step forward in its battle to get to grips with the overcomplicated system.

Let's hope the Coalition Government has now got the idea of change fully out of its system and will focus on making as little further change to the tax system as possible.

Chas Roy-Chowdhury, Head of Taxation, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, London WC2

BBC's shiny new office – for now

I am grateful for the virtual tour of the lavish facilities available at the BBC's new production centre ("Jonathan Brown visits the £200m Salford super-office – and finds a satirist's dream", 11 May) and can say with certainty that unless the North is in some magical way different from the South, the whole building will be turned into a slum within six months of the staff being allowed through the doors.

That is how it always was whenever the BBC opened some spanking new building or extension during my 20 years and more at the BBC: ripped chairs, footmarks on the walls and ceilings, coffee rings on spaceship equipment that cost the universe, plus sufficient grime and general scruffiness to give a convincing impression that the people who dwelt therein were far too clever to care about such bourgeois considerations as the cleanliness and general aesthetics of their workplace.

What a shame L S Lowry isn't around now to do a "Before" and "After" picture for Peter Salmon's Salford office.

Michael Cole, Laxfield, Suffolk

Greece will cling to the euro

Hamish McRae is right that some kind of restructuring of Greek government debt looks inevitable, but leaving EMU won't be considered an attractive policy option ("Greece will quit the euro – not just yet though", 11 May). A cheaper currency would boost Greek competitiveness, but far from curing Greece's financial problems it would exacerbate them.

First, leaving EMU would further increase Greek borrowing costs since investors would be even less willing to lend in a "new drachma". Borrowing costs fell dramatically as EMU entry approached and the threat of currency devaluation was removed. This process would be reversed if Greece left EMU.

Worse, although domestic debts could presumably be redenominated into the new currency, foreign debts would still be in euro. Debtors would have to pay up in full or default. Many private firms and individuals could face insolvency due to the return of a currency risk they thought had been abolished. This would cause real suffering, and could well trigger a new banking crisis.

Simon Hayley, Cass Business School, London EC1

Why Blair was not invited

One obvious reason for Tony Blair's omission from the royal wedding guest-list seems to have been generally overlooked: that his last intended public appearance in London, to promote his autobiography at a bookshop in Piccadilly had to be cancelled because of fears of angry public demonstrations. In spite of this some of those who have imputed rather more mean-spirited motives to Buckingham Palace suggest that because he was an "elected" prime minister he should have been invited.

Tony Blair took this country in to an illegal and immoral war having been reappointed prime minister on the strength of his party's winning more seats in the House of Commons than any other party, in spite of receiving the votes of only about one-third of the electorate. Naturally, a large number of the two-thirds whose votes were cast in to the dustbin feel very angry indeed that they were dragged, willy-nilly, in to an appearance of support for a self-styled war on terror.

It is likely that a number of people who felt that the ballot box had been ineffectual would have taken the opportunity afforded by such a spectacular public occasion to vent their anger, and that a great many other people, furious at the hijacking of a popular non-political event, would have counter-demonstrated with equal vigour. Nobody would have benefited, and the cost of the necessary extra security measures would have weighed very heavily on the taxpayer.

It is to be expected that the tabloids would report such petty supposed excuses for not inviting the Blairs as the banning of foxhunting or the decommissioning of Britannia or even the self-confessed social ineptitude of Mrs Blair. That some of the more politically aware and usually responsive newspapers should also report them without criticism or comment is disappointing.

Sheila Yarwood, London NW11

Planet Tesco

Stuart Heaver (letter, 10 May) exaggerates Tesco's annual profits; they made £3.8bn last year, not £13.4bn. Having said that, at the rate we are going, we will all wake up to Radio Tesco, have a shower with Tesco water, cook a Tesco breakfast with Tesco power, catch a Tesco train to work, reading the Daily Tesco paper, come home and watch Tesco TV, go to bed and make love with a Tesco condom on a Tesco bed. In short, we must support local shops!

John Richards, St Ives, Cornwall

Strange silence

The criminalisation of protest (Laurie Penny's article, 9 May) should represent a grave affront to the values of Liberal Democrats. But we haven't heard a peep out of them. Evidently another liberal principle has been discarded in return for office.

B J Fearnley, Debenham, Suffolk

Lunch guests

Like Peter Forster (letter, 11 May) in Paris, last week I was delighted to take note of the presence of house sparrows (Passer domesticus) all over Venice. They were bold enough to join you at your lunch-table and even perch on the rim of the lunch-plate.

Zahur Zaman, Leuven, Belgium

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