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Thursday 29 July 2010
Letters: Perspectives on Gordon Brown
The real man shone through
May I say that Christina Patterson's Gordon Brown interview (26 July) really was superb, not only a joy to read as a delightfully quirky personal view and an excellent piece of journalism, but also sympathetic, and extremely fascinating in capturing the contradictions to Brown's personality.
Her article reminded me again (if we need reminding) why The Independent is such an excellent, intelligent, must-read newspaper.
I never forgave Blair for his arrogance, deceit and lies that not only took into the dreadful and disastrous Iraq war, but also squandered and wasted what was probably the best opportunity to actually reform Britain, socially, politically, constitutionally and economically in favour of the ordinary people, rather then the Tory-voting rich.
Once Blair was gone, I was prepared to give Brown the benefit of the doubt, and had he drawn a line under the wrong-headed and disastrous Blairite policies and mistakes, and actually had the courage of his convictions, rather then continuing the New Labour obsession of spin, refusal to say sorry, and pandering to the right-wing media, then I might have supported Labour at the last election.
Sadly, Brown was a classic example of these junior managers who so crave the boss's job, but, once seated behind his desk, prove to be even less competent. But, despite his flawed character, temper or political failings, he was still a better human being – and socialist – than Blair ever was.
Copies of Christina Patterson's excellent article ought to be sent to all these people who not only slagged Brown off politically but personally also. Blair still deserves that censure. Thank you again for such an excellent piece of intelligent, balanced and thoughtful journalism.
Garth Groombridge, Southampton
Poetic view of a rounded human
Thank you for Christina Patterson's insightful interview with Gordon Brown. For the first time, I could see him in a more rounded way than the usual caricatures of him as either a ranting ogre or a warm and witty friend. Unfortunately, it seems that politics (and power in general) often brings out the beast in many. But not all politicians also have his more positive human qualities.
Ms Patterson's background in poetry seems to enable her to express human truths that go beyond the usual media interview, closer (for those who remember it) to John Freeman's Face to Face TV interviews.
Malcolm Peltu, London W4
Funny, riveting and insightful
I want to congratulate The Independent and Christina Patterson on an extremely well-written and interesting article on Gordon Brown post-election.
It was funny, riveting to read and extremely insightful. It showed Gordon Brown in a different light and we can only hope that, away from the media spotlight, he can continue to do brilliant work, locally, nationally and internationally.
Firoz Noordeen, London SE22
The fast track to injustice
How I endorse the sentiments of your leading article, "Fast-tracked injustice" (27 July). Not only does it offend against natural justice to detain asylum-seekers in the night then bundle them into a plane without the chance to telephone their solicitor, but the fear of just such an event puts asylum-seekers into a state of constant terror in case just such a thing happens to them.
For the past 10 years, I have worked as a counsellor for refugees and asylum-seekers in London and latterly in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Many of my clients suffer nightmares every night, because of the traumas they have fled from, so they find it difficult to sleep at night anyway.
Now word has got round that they might be arrested in the middle of the night, so they live in a state of constant fear of just such an occurrence.
I, too, trust that the Home Office officials will not appeal against the ruling that it has been breaking the law by fast-tracking the removal of asylum-seekers by arresting them late at night or early in the morning, when their solicitor is unavailable to intervene.
Dorothy Spence, Appleby, Cumbria
Arrest warrant plan unneeded
The Government's proposal to give the Director of Public Prosecutions a veto power over arrest warrants in cases where (for example) a suspected war criminal from overseas is present on UK soil is misguided "(Clarke plans change to war crimes arrest warrant", 23 July).
The Government's claim that the present system is "open to abuse", with "politically motivated" campaigners attempting to obtain arrest warrants on "flimsy evidence", is itself flimsy. The present system is perfectly robust.
Senior district judges have proved themselves quite capable of rejecting applications they thought illegitimate. Instead, by introducing a totally unnecessary layer of DPP decision-making, the Government will achieve nothing other than to slow the issuing of warrants. In some cases this could mean that those suspected of the most heinous of crimes (war crimes, torture, hostage-taking) will escape the net.
Rather than fix something that isn't broken, the Government should support effective justice and accountability mechanisms and keep our universal jurisdiction procedures unchanged. No one should be above the law, no matter who they are or where they may be.
Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK, London EC2
He's made the readers cross
May I request that anyone gathering data for Julien Evans (letters, 27 July) on whether pedestrians thank drivers who stop at zebra crossings also gathers data on whether car-drivers on major roads thank those who wait at junctions rather than pulling out in front of them and whether train-drivers thank car-drivers who stop at level-crossings?
Unless Buckinghamshire has a different Highway Code, a zebra crossing is a pedestrian right of way, not just a recommended crossing place or the only place a pedestrian is allowed to cross, no matter how much someone has spent on their car or how late for work they are.
I don't thank other pedestrians for refraining from assaulting me with more portable lethal weapons. Why would I thank someone sitting down for refraining from assaulting me with a tonne and a half of aluminium, plastic, glass, flammable liquids, hot steel, antifreeze and sulphuric acid?
They never thank me for accelerating through red lights to save them from sliding into me when I am driving.
Chris Newman, Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire
I can assure Julien Evans that my wife and I always give a friendly and grateful wave to the drivers who manage to stop for us when we are using a pedestrian crossing. So that is at least two of the four or five people using the crossing.
We have received too many thrilling experiences from those discourteous drivers who merely fail to obey the law by not stopping.
Herb Short, London SW15
I take issue with Julien Evans's suggestion that pedestrians should thank drivers who stop at pedestrian crossings, as though the motorists were doing the pedestrians a favour.
We have a right to cross the road. Would he also suggest that when the light is green for cars that the motorists should wave their thanks to the pedestrians waiting on the kerb? No, I didn't think so.
Julian Gardiner, Elstree, Hertfordshire
I have the feeling that Julien Evans resents pedestrians having right of way over motorists.
Rob Hatcher, Northampton
Strong case for keeping cheques
Of the three cute "solutions" Fiona Woodfield offers for a cheque-less future, one of them depends on a hi-tech gas engineer rather different from most jobbing builders and the other two involve the payer in trips to the bank, useless for the disabled, house-bound, remotely located or the very busy. None incorporates any evidence of payment as simple, coherent and readily storable as a cheque counterfoil.
Of course cheque use has declined with the coming of credit and debit cards, but it is elementary false logic to conclude that this means it will become extinct.
Historically, most inventions do not extinguish older ones, but merely reposition them. The cinema did not kill the theatre, nor has television killed film or radio. Computers have not led to any decline in the amount of paper in circulation, and email and texting have not noticeably dampened people's appetite for chatting on the phone.
Huge numbers of cheques are still written every year. We really must fight off the attempt by the major clearing banks arbitrarily to declare that this easy, safe, traditional device is somehow out of date and dispensible.
Gillian Tindall, London NW5
I wonder how Fiona Woodfield would deal with the following situations I have encountered in the past few months: donations to several charities via funeral directors in memory of friends and former colleagues; cheques for family and friends when I was away over Christmas; gift to a niece to buy something for their new baby; a college reunion dinner; the local milkman, gardener, window-cleaner and home help; membership of village societies; services (domestic fuel delivery and boiler service) where the office, not their visiting workmen, produces the itemised bill and receives the money.
All were effortlessly accomplished by cheque and some would have meant keeping cash in the house.
I would not be comfortable with keeping track of lots of different private bank accounts belonging to family and friends to transfer electronically. As for blithely taking invoices or cards "down to the bank", please remember the elderly or less mobile in rural areas; there is no public transport link from this village to the nearest banks, each being several miles away.
I know which method of payment I prefer; it is more convenient and clearly less open to fraud.
Barbara Pointon, Thriplow, Cambridgeshire
How have they managed in The Netherlands without cheques for years already? Cheques do not need to be replaced. They're redundant. I use either credit or debit card and bank transfer (which is easy online).
If small tradesmen, craftsmen or local organisations would be smart enough (or trying to avoid paying tax, or stealing VAT) they would give their bank sort code and account number I even pay my music band's membership fee via bank transfer. Fast, secure and easy for the band's finance records.
Jan de Landtsheer, Littlehampton, West Sussex
We had to have a welfare state
Katherine Scholfield ascribes the apparent apathy towards mutual aid in today's society to our being "selfish, lazy and spoilt rotten by years of welfare" (letters, 27 July). If we are like that, it is far more likely to be due to the self-reliance and "Get on your bike" doctrines of the 1980s.
The welfare state was born out of the intense frustrations of not being able individually to do enough to help so many people who were in the most desperate need.
And the reason that people are still "whining about class" as Ms Scholfield puts it, is that the in-built self-interest of Establishment classes, ignorant of and uninterested in the grinding poverty of others, was by no means the least of the reasons why a welfare state was built on a post-war consensus.
David Humphrey, London W5
Plight of the ousted Arabs
As a long-time fan of Robert Fisk, I was a bit surprised to see the assertion in his article (24 July; letters, 28 July) that "the term Palestinian broadly refers to Arabs who declined Israeli citizenship in 1948, when the country was formed". The verb "decline" implies a kind of autonomy which many of these people simply did not have.
From the creation of Israel in 1948 to the passing of the Israeli Nationality Law in July 1952, Palestinians were effectively rendered stateless. Article 18 of the Laws of the State of Israel states that Palestinian citizenship orders were retrospectively "repealed with effect from the day of the establishment of the State".
Obtaining Israeli citizenship was not straightforward. Those who failed to attain legal status remained in Israel as stateless persons, entering a black hole where they did not gain the full spectrum of rights. Any articles mentioning historical Palestinian citizenship must reflect the harsh realities of the situation that many Arabs found themselves in circa 1948.
Tehmina Kazi, Director, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, London WC1
Hollywood was seldom original
Although the view of Guy Adams that many contemporary Hollywood films are one-dimensional (Essay, 22 July) is hard to disagree with, his suggestion that Hollywood in the past was awash with original movies needs examination.
The 10 top-grossing films in 1942 include two adapted from stage plays (including Casablanca), three adapted from novels,(such as For Whom the Bell Tolls), and one film version of a Broadway musical (This is the Army).
At number five in the list is Stage Door Canteen, a movie which is essentially a more star-studded version of entertainment offered at the New York venue of the same name which had been set up to provide entertainment for US Service personnel.
Also on the list can be found two Betty Grable musicals, Coney Island (remade in 1949 as Wabash Avenue) and Sweet Rosie O'Grady (a reworking of several elements from 1937's Love is News).
Hollywood has always been about making money and its films have always used stars, genres and popular books and plays to draw in audiences who are reassured by the familiar. The prospect of MacGyver the movie fills me with horror too, but let's not pretend Hollywood has ever been any different.
Rob Hind, Gosport, Hampshire
History of our Naval College
With reference to Nick Daubenay's piece on Greenwich Naval College (26 July), the college is a 17th-, not a 16th-century site. Charles I began building after the Restoration in 1660, and the site was completed by William III after the Glorious Revolution in 1688 as The Hospital for Seamen.
In the 16th century, the site was occupied by the medieval Palace of Placentia, which fell into disrepair towards the end of the reign of Elizabeth I. And for lovers of historical anachronisms in film, one of the most bizarre is the use of the Painted Hall at Greenwich near the beginning of the film Quills, involving Napoleon and the Marquis de Sade.
John Williams, Dartford, Kent
First to explore the world's seas
Your fine article on the British role in the development of oceanography ("Secrets of the Deep", Viewspaper, 26 July) sadly omits to mention that the world's first major oceanographic expedition – that based on HMS Challenger – set sail from Portsmouth on 21 December 1872, returning on 24 May 1876, having spent 713 days at sea and having covered 70,000 nautical miles.
Although the printed records of the expedition are scattered through oceanography libraries, a complete electronic archive can be found online at http://19thcenturyscience.org
Andrew Barrow, Science Librarian, University of Portsmouth
It's not simple
It is easy to agree with Howard Jacobson but "People want retribution; not rehabilitation" (24 July) is an exception. He is being too simplistic. The courts decide the length of imprisonment as tariff for their crime, but rehabilitation is a duty of a compassionate society. Any subsequent tariff decision should take full account of the seriousness of the original crime.
Derek Fabian, Dumbarton, Dunbartonshire
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