Killing for kicks goes unchallenged
The lobby which believes in tormenting and killing wild animals for kicks and snobbery appoints a pretty young Tory woman as chief executive, and The Independent responds by giving her a simpering double-page profile (1 November).
Jonathan Brown asked Alice Barnard no awkward questions about hares dying in a bloody tug of war between two dogs at coursing events, frantically convulsing foxes being disembowelled by packs of hounds, terrified stags being chased by dogs across the countryside until they are too exhausted to run any more, or the fact that fewer than one in five voters and only a minority even of countryside dwellers want the Hunting Act repealed.
Instead we had a series of unchallenged assertions, larded with patronising statements such as "some urban dwellers remain ignorant of country ways."
Christopher Clayton, Waverton, Cheshire
We should grow out of this barbarism
Alice Bernard states that the current Hunting Act 2004 is not working and so should be repealed. The compulsory wearing of seat-belts in vehicles and the wearing of crash helmets on motor cycles were not fully taken to heart at first, but after some time, people tend to see the sense in many new laws. The use of mobile phones in cars is another example; it takes time to bed down.
For me, as someone who lives and works in Somerset, the Hunting Act is a marker as to what is acceptable in a modern society. Many cruel and inhuman activities were the norm in times past, and we only have to look at the killing of the Emperor of Exmoor to see that hunters will hunt for the best and most prized trophy, often while using the excuse of saying they are performing "pest control" or "weeding out the sick and weak".
If Alice Bernard and her Countryside Alliance get their way then that would be a great defeat for democracy; after all, hunters are in a tiny minority, even within the rural community.
Graham Forsyth, Chard, Somerset
Flagrant flouting of law of the land
Alice Barnard, the new head of the Countryside Alliance, repeats the hunters' mantra that the Hunting Act "is not working". The translation of "not working" is that it is being constantly flouted and ruthlessly ridden roughshod over by the hunters, as any hunt monitor will tell you. This, in the surreal reasoning of the hunters, means the law should be removed altogether; I'd like to see persistent burglars or muggers trying that one out.
Ms Barnard says the Alliance is concerned with issues other than hunting, but it is revealing that the handbook of the Heythrop hunt states: "No one will be welcome out hunting unless they are a member of the Countryside Alliance."
Penny Little, Great Haseley, Oxfordshire
France is not the enemy
At a time of increased threats to our sovereignty, be it from the EU or violent extremists, the first response by politicians at the prospect of France and the UK signing defence treaties (3 November) is to douse the plan with ridicule and burn it at the stake.
Surely politicians must realise that the battlefields of the previous decades are past: we battle together in Afghanistan as well as winning the "battle" with the EU over spending increases, yet the first argument against such a tie-up is whether France would be "forthcoming in a future tussle over the Falklands".
If we live in a tolerant society, yet express disgust at a tie up with our closest neighbour, we may as well close our borders, line up at Hastings and prepare for war. Our real enemies will then have won.
Gary Wilkin, Newcastle upon Tyne
Democracy in Britain is just an illusion. David Cameron has just amalgamated the British and French armed forces without any public consultation.
During the general election Mr Cameron promised us a referendum if any more treaties gave away British sovereignty, but now that the election is over he has forgotten all about his promise.
Steve Halden, Swindon
Blame for the financial mess
David Prosser (26 October) writes: "Everyone is well aware of the financial situation in this country". But do we all understand the roots of the financial mess? The British public and media appear to have accepted the line presented by the Coalition Government that the total package of cuts worth £128bn by 2015-16 was "unavoidable" because of Labour's careless spending.
Until the financial crash of 2008, however, the Labour governments had succeeded in keeping national debt below 40 per cent of GDP. In 2008 it rose rapidly, primarily because of interventions to bail out Northern Rock, RBS and other banks; because of lower tax receipts; and because of higher spending on unemployment benefits – all caused by the recession.
Over the past two years the British government has pumped more than £375bn into the banking system through "unconventional" measures, but very little has flowed back into the real economy. This figure is almost half of the declared total public deficit. So, the current deficit was caused primarily by the recession, not by previous administration's pre-crash spending plans.
Reducing the overall debt/GDP ratio is difficult by simple fiscal measures, and not always necessary. Sometimes a large fiscal deficit can actually reduce the ratio if the fiscal deficit creates a bigger GDP. Past experience says that the economy must be on a growth path in order to achieve required economic and financial benefits.
But if the country suffers not only low, or no, growth, but also no growth in working-age population, reducing the debt/GDP ratio seems unrealistic and also highly risky. Therefore in order to achieve a balanced annual budget, careful fiscal measures should be accompanied by other measures such as tax rises and growth-led investment. The Government seems to be obsessed with the need for belt-tightening, but the real problem is inadequate spending.
Trying to put all the blame on the previous government is over-simplistic.
Bulent Gokay, Keele University, Staffordshire
The incapacity benefit scam
Aidan Anglin (letter, 3 November) writes that Incapacity Benefit was used to hide the extent of joblessness. But it went much further than suggested.
I was on "the dole" in 1994 when I was asked to visit my local hospital and meet the consultant in some department or other. Apart from drinking much, for reasons I won't go into, there was nothing wrong with me. Two weeks later a new benefit book arrived, putting me on incapacity benefit with no explanation. No, I did not go and complain; who would? This was the Tories' method of reducing the jobless figures.
After unknown numbers of job applications, I got back into work in 2003, earning less than my benefit, and the income from a legal part-time job under "Workstart 50".
Seven years on, I am still worse off than I was because of the loss of housing benefit, council-tax help, and free glasses. Oh well; at least I can look at myself in the mirror in the morning.
Nigel Bray, Abergavenny
Collaborators in Palestine
Your brilliant columnist Julie Burchill (3 November) is spot-on with regard to the long history of ant-Semitic and anti-western Islamo-fascism.
During the Second World War, 30,000 Israeli Jews served in the British Forces, and 700 were killed, lying now under Commonwealth War-graves Commission headstones. Yet never has an Israeli representative been invited to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph with other dignitaries, when Mandate Palestine was in effect a British colony from 1917 to 1947. We should think about this awful injustice and insult, as Remembrance Day approaches.
By contrast, virtually no Palestinian Arabs served with the Allies in the Second World War and many worked treacherously for the Nazis throughout. The Palestinian leader Haj Amin el-Husseini fled the British in Palestine in 1939 and spent the war in Berlin alongside Hitler, planning to build gas chambers in Nablus to exterminate the Jews of the Middle East had Hitler won.
El-Husseini raised Muslim troops all over the Arab world who served in the SS and other units, committing appalling atrocities against Jews and others.
Anwar Sadat was arrested and imprisoned by the British in 1942, attempting to meet Rommel and welcome him into Cairo before Alamein, and Rashid Ali led a pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic coup in Iraq in 1941, which was put down, amid pogroms of Iraqi Jews, by the Commonwealth Forces operating out of Israel spearheaded by Haganah scouts like Moshe Dayan, Yigal Allon and Yitzak Rabin.
Martin Sugarman, Archivist of the Jewish Military Museum of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women of the UK, London NW4
Palestine was not the only reason why a tiny minority of Muslims sided with the Axis powers (letters, 4 November); the Muslims of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union had other reasons.
However, the vast majority of Muslims were with the Allies. The largest voluntary force in history was from India, a large proportion of which was Muslim. Countless Muslims died fighting the Nazis.
Julie Burchill drew an odious, ignorant and false conclusion from the actions of a minority of Muslims. What conclusion does she draw from the fact that Israelis elected an aspiring Nazi-collaborator, Yitzhak Shamir, as Prime Minister?
Khalid Haneef, Watford, Hertfordshire
Extra hour of winter sunshine
In recommending a change to Central European time, i.e. GMT plus one hour in winter and plus two in summer, the point made by Dr Mayer Hillman, but not acknowledged by J W Wright or Peter Medwell (letters, 3 November), is the potential health benefit of an estimated extra 300 hours of daylight at a time allowing some exercise and recreation.
Those determined to focus on the TV or pub after school or work will no doubt be indifferent to the bonus of an extra hour's daylight at day's end, but polls seem to indicate that a substantial majority would prefer to enjoy some outdoor activity after the daily grind.
Is full daylight really essential in the morning for going to work or school?
In Europe only Ireland and Portugal, both to the west of the UK, go back with us to GMT in winter. Most of France is on the same longitude as Britain, and much of mainland Spain is still farther west, and both are on Central European time.
Peter Kellett, Kinlochewe, Ross-shire
One of the arguments put forward in favour of "double" British Summer Time ("The dark nights return", 1 November) is that it would put our time in line with Europe and remove the current hour's difference. Assuming the other arguments (more evening leisure activities, fewer accidents, lower energy consumption) are valid in the UK, then wouldn't Europe ultimately also adopt their own double BST, leaving us an hour different – just as now?
Keith Bailey, Basingstoke, Hampshire
A leader loathed by the rich
Having watched thousands of Argentines gathering to say their farewells to former president Néstor Kirchner, I was appalled to read Celia Szusterman's barely contained expression of joy at his death (Opinion, 28 October).
Of course, Szusterman is not alone. Denizens of gated communities, ex-supporters of the military and hardline Catholics have all loathed Kirchner since he forced his party to overturn his predecessors' amnesty laws and bring perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice, supported same-sex marriage, and refused to acquiesce to IMF dictates on debt repayments and fiscal austerity.
More recently, his wife and successor Cristina Fernández's overturning of media regulations inherited from the dictatorship – which had granted virtual monopolies of public broadcasting signals to the corporations that whitewashed the terror – earned the Kirchners the scorn of the establishment, and the agribusiness lobby.
This small-town politician from Patagonia forged a rainbow coalition involving social and human-rights militants, middle-class progressives and shantytown dwellers, in a sometimes uneasy alliance between the liberal left and the paternalist culture of Peronism. The vast numbers of young people at Kirchner's funeral indicate that, unlike in our own gloomy latitudes, people have once more started to believe that political involvement can make a difference.
This is as much to Kirchner's credit as it is to Fernández's, whose derisory characterisation by Szusterman as her husband's hapless puppet displays startling misogyny. Fernández is a highly articulate, cosmopolitan intellectual. The displays of affection and respect from her Latin American peers during Kirchner's funeral eloquently dismiss Szusterman's ridiculous claim of Argentina's regional isolation: let us hope that Fernández and her fellow leaders enhance the legacy of Néstor Kirchner, advancing Latin America further towards a mature, democratic and just society.
Jens Andermann, Professor of Latin American and Luso-Brazilian Studies, Birkbeck College, University of London
US turns back to the bunglers
The American electorate really does take the biscuit. It takes the corrupt and incompetent Bush administration almost eight years to destroy a vibrant economy, yet when the Democrats haven't fixed the problem in just 22 months this bunch turn to the very same bunglers whose paymasters caused the collapse in the first place.
The US is the most powerful nation on earth, and as an outsider I find the voters' switch in allegiance – especially to the ultra-right Tea Party movement – very, very worrying. Let's hope they come to their senses before November 2012, and an election that really matters – to all of us.
Terence Roy Smith, Biggleswade, Bedfordshire
Freed from the state
DSA Murray (Letters, 25 October) appears to believe that only those employed by the private sector have any role in generating the nation's wealth, or contributing to its tax base, and that the entire public sector is a swindle foisted on oppressed private-sector workers.
Therefore, I suggest that Murray be allowed to withdraw from paying taxes entirely. This will be much fairer on Murray, and result in considerable savings.
However, in return, Murray would be prohibited from accessing any service in the public sector, or in receipt of public money. So, out of those savings Murray can finance his own police force, fire service, health care (including emergency), street cleaning and waste disposal and military protection in the event of an invasion. I believe this is an equitable settlement.
Barry Richards, Cardiff
What about a vote, Mr Hague?
I am appalled that William Hague is promising Israel a change in UK law on universal jurisdiction ("Hague breaks protocol to meet Palestinian activists", 3 November).
How can this be? I thought it was up to Parliament to decide on UK law, not up to the Foreign Secretary. Israel has now said it won't conduct strategic talks in the UK until the law has been changed. That is their affair. But it is an outrage that a minister of Her Majesty's Government should pre-empt the decision of the British Parliament in this way.
Elizabeth Morley, Aberystwyth, Dyfed
I would be less interested in whether aliens have souls (letters, 4 November) and more in whether they have any sort of religious belief. If they do, it would suggest that the formation of belief in invisible beings who watch over us and are concerned about what we do is an inevitable accompaniment of advanced intelligence. If they don't, we should have to assume that we are the victims of a collective delusion.
Anthony Campbell, London N14
Cut the cuts
Studying the Sarkozy heels (Sketch, 3 November) I was intrigued to see the care with which the red carpet had been cut to fit round the "boulders" at Lancaster House. Cost-cutting memo to Dave: redundancies for the red-carpet cutters. Cannot presidential heels pace a straight-edged carpet?
Sally Turff, King's Lynn, Norfolk