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Thursday 28 April 2011
Letters: Perspectives on the AV referendum
We owe it to our children to vote Yes
AV is a very modest change to the electoral system with the purpose of permitting voters in each constituency to elect the man or woman who enjoys the greatest level of support. That is the minimum that any nation should offer its electorate.
The comments I have heard on local radio station phone-ins suggests that many people in the South-west, at least, are falling for the lies contained in the No literature. Polls suggest that younger people favour the change to AV. Those of us of more mature years should not confound their hopes. We have already left our children and grandchildren with debt and crushed hopes for good pensions. We have removed their access to free higher education. Don't let us add to their complaints by voting against AV.
Philip Denner, Exmouth, Devon
No to Mandelson
I must confess that until Tuesday I was somewhat ambivalent to the issues of electoral reform; as I saw it good in principle, but unlikely to make much practical difference.
But then you published your interview with Peter Mandelson. After reading that such a flawed and disgraced person would champion AV, and not because it was fairer but because "it is our chance to hurt Cameron," I can proudly state that I will vote to maintain first-past-the- post. AV is definitely my second choice.
Jeremy Apter, Sudbury, Suffolk
'Beaten' but still leader
David Cameron didn't win the Conservative Party leadership election outright. David Davis beat him 62-56. He won on the next round, with second preference votes from supporters of Ken Clarke, who had been eliminated. That's how AV works!
Fine – a party leader needs broad support from all his MPs. An MP's job is to represent all their constituents, not just the minority that currently gets most of them into power – so it's every bit as important for an MP to have broad support as for the party leader.
The NOtoAV leaflet is very definite on the subject: "It is wrong that the person who came second or third can overtake the person with the most votes and be allowed to win." But somehow this "very simple principle" doesn't apply to the Prime Minister. If I were David Cameron I'd be embarrassed to be associated with the NOtoAV campaign.
David Wright, Southwell, Nottinghamshire
I find it hard to square David Cameron's opposition to AV with the fact that, without Scotland's version of it, his party would probably have only one serving MSP at Holyrood. It could be argued that the Conservatives' continued existence north of the Border is directly attributable to a form of voting that he finds so objectionable. I wonder how aspirant Tory MSPs will be casting their votes in the referendum.
John Scott Moncrieff, Edinburgh
As you like it
Under the current system, many people do not vote for the party they really like: they vote for a party they don't really like in order to keep out a party they really don't like. AV enables the voter to do both. It's as easy as ABC (Anything But Conservative).
J M Priestley, London SW19
The press is no moral arbiter
The media is in one of its feeding frenzies, this time over the Andrew Marr superinjunction, because you feel you should have freedom to publish whatever you like (within the laws of libel) about anyone's private life, particularly if it may be regarded as a bit immoral.
As the phone-hacking scandal has shown, the idea of journalists as arbiters of public morality is laughable. Many know all about what the public is interested in, but care little for what is in the public interest.
We need a privacy law that restricts publication of details of anyone's private life to that which may be in the public interest. That should allow the publication of things about politicians or pundits who make public pronouncements on morality. But sports people, actors? How many of them hold forth on such things ?
Marr is accused of hypocrisy because he had previously written that he thought that these things should be dealt with by a privacy law, not via the decisions of judges. But successive governments have refused to deal with the subject (despite talk about the last chance saloon), so he used what was available to him. And until a government deals with the problem, superinjunctions will continue.
MPs are too scared of the bullying press to address the problem; they know that if they try it, their every nook and cranny is likely to be scrutinised. And who of us doesn't have the odd little secret?
John Hall, Telford
Am I the only chap to think that if Andrew Marr can have an affair there might be hope for all of us?
John Bartholomew, Lyme Regis, Dorset
Royal wedding without gifts
At least in Ancient Rome we proles were given bread with our circuses. On the occasion of a triumph we even received wine and gifts of money. For this royal wedding there is a holiday to watch the circus, but instead of gifts we will receive cuts and job losses. Elites who wish to hold power ignore the proles at their peril.
Glenn Simpson, Belfast
While Prince William has been allowed to marry the commoner of his choice, unlike his father, we all wait to see if the Palace has actually "moved on". We saw the Palace's leaden hand on Diana Spencer and Sarah Ferguson; will this bride be their third time lucky?
Simon Allen, Watford, Hertfordshire
Will television coverage of the royal wedding be preceded by a considerate warning: "The following programme contains scenes which might distress republicans"?
Peter Forster, London N4
Now that the Government is looking into the succession laws for the royals, would it not also be a sensible time to look into the abdication rules and conventions as well?
As it is, modern medical practice ensures that the reigning monarch will, in all probability, live into their 80s or 90s, and the successor is unlikely to succeed until they are themselves in their 60s or 70s. Unless a way is found to allow the next generation to succeed earlier, we are destined always to have geriatric monarchs.
A simple and humane change would require the monarch to abdicate – I prefer retire – at age 60 or 65. It would be beneficial to all parties: the reigning monarch, who can enjoy a well-earned retirement; their successor, who can take up the burden at a younger age and then too enjoy a retirement; and the country as a whole, which will not always have an OAP monarch.
I think we could allow retiring monarchs the right to remain in the country, as they are most unlikely to represent any threat to their successor.
John Harvey, Bristol
With an elected head of state, those who voted for the losers have elected nobody. Only an unelected head of state can represent everybody.
N I Barnes, London NW8
West takes sides in Libyan war
I am appalled at how quickly, once Western governments have a UN resolution tucked under their belts, they can move into illegality ("We're in for the long haul, Hague warns cabinet colleagues", 27 April).
Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy have stated they are aiming to remove Gaddafi. That is for the Libyans to decide, not the West. Nor is it covered by UN Resolution 1973. We are supposedly interfering in Libya because we have permission to maintain a no-fly zone – that is, to keep Libyan airspace free of any air traffic that might cause harm to civilians. Was Gaddafi's compound showing signs of taking off, that it should be targeted?
We are there, so we are told, for "humanitarian reasons". Would that we were. But that does not allow the West to pick sides in what is rapidly, with our help, becoming a civil war. UN Resolutions 1970 and 1973 state that under the arms embargo, which applies to all of Libya, no technical assistance or training is allowed. Britain is providing just that – to one side only.
And now Hague implies that we should also arm the rebels, saying that Britain does not regard the ban on supplying arms as absolute. In other words, we'll twist the resolution to suit ourselves.
I fully support the international responsibility to protect civilians. But adding more bombs, missiles and other arms to the situation will only increase civilian casualties, regardless of which side they are on. For the sake of all Libyans, I want to see a speedy end to the conflict. While the West persists in always seeking a military "solution" to any conflict, I fear the Libyans are in for a long and bloody time.
Lesley Docksey, Buckland Newton, Dorset
The British government has been assisting in the selling of arms to repressive regimes in North Africa and the Middle East for many years ("A blind eye in the West to repression in the Gulf", 22 April). Its "special relationship" ally, the US, likes it that way.
The unelected dictators buy huge quantities of US and UK arms and, in exchange, control the price of oil within acceptable limits. So everyone is happy – except the citizens who are ashamed that their government pimps for the merchants of death at the expense of citizens in other states.
Dr Vincent Cable MP has a "Defence and Security Organisation" (UKTI-DSO) within his department which employs 180 civil servants to work promoting the sale of weapons. A generous freebie for the arms manufacturers.
Is this what citizens want their wealth spent on as hospitals are closed and tens of thousand of nurses and doctors are laid off from the "ring-fenced" National Health Service for lack of funds.?
Jim McCluskey, Twickenham, Middlesex
Europe's role in the world
I agree with John Lichfield (23 April), that "without legitimacy, the EU will remain remote and disliked", but I do not agree that "direct democracy would confer a new level of legitimacy and power", or that it would redress the "surge of nationalism and populism". The problem arises because the EU is trying to be something it is not, a European nation state. It is seeking to do things which only a nation state can do, such as control the economies of its member states or operate a single policy on immigration. A gulf has appeared between the rhetoric and reality which has discredited the core idea.
I believe that the EU is an essential organisation which, as Lichfield points out, has important achievements to its credit. These achievements are those which integrate the European states within the world community: free trade, environmental standards, and improved governance.
It now has an even more important task: to assert European influence in the world, whether diplomatic, financial, or military, not against the United States but alongside it. The internal "harmonisation" pursued by the European commission is a pointless distraction. Instead of being concerned at nationalism within Europe, we should be worried at the failure of Italy, Spain, and Germany to support the campaign in Libya, leaving the burden to France, the UK, and the US. This failure is making the EU seem an expensive irrelevance, when it could be a major force for good.
The original European concept was based on treaties between France and Germany in 1957 and 1963. Whatever they achieved, these treaties have run their course and will result in nothing else of use. The European future will be determined by those European states, at present France and Britain, which have the world outlook to devise a specifically European position and the diplomatic and military resources to exert it. A compact between France and Britain to unify their policies on foreign affairs, defence, finance, trade, citizenship, and the environment would give Europe a new leadership and direction, and free it from what Mr Lichfield calls the muddle and ambivalence of the past.
Anthony C Pick, Newbury, Berkshire
Benefits needed, not deserved
David Cameron's view that incapacity benefits should be paid only to those "deserving" them raises serious issues.
Addicts to drugs or alcohol or the obese are all too easy a target for savings by classing their situations as self-inflicted. Their inability to work often has many complex and insidious factors; families, schools, employers and society in general share in their failure to succeed.
Their choice of "self-inflicted" risk of harm by their lifestyle is far less conscious or purposeful than the sky-diver, cyclist or mountain walker whose long-term disability stems from some reckless "accident" where the state never questions support.
Once society starts to make judgements on culpability, as a factor in entitlement to basic benefits, then we lose the right to call ourselves compassionate. Through the door Mr Cameron shoves open so clumsily must come (for example) stopping support for all pregnant teenagers, all Aids sufferers resulting from unprotected sexual activity and all smoking-related conditions.
All choices, Mr Cameron, but a big society needs to be compassionate to those to who get life wrong.
Phil Isherwood, Leigh, Lancashire
I am "morbidly obese". I am not on benefits, and – to date – I am not using NHS resources related to my illness. And illness it is; extremely distressing and chronic.
Mr Cameron's position reminds me of the incessant contempt, ridicule and name-calling that "fatties" like me experienced throughout our schooldays. Bully-boy head prefects and their sniggering acolytes telling us to pull our socks up, stop being greedy and go for a run did little to help then, and will make little difference now. Treatment for addiction doesn't always work. Bullying never does.
As obesity is growing exponentially, will fatty voters eventually get their revenge on the sneering Head Boy?
Adrian Gilpin, Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Mr Lansley's cunning plan
Rachel Michaels points out (letter, 13 April) that the idea of giving GPs responsibility for finance, purchasing, contracts, risk management etc is madness; they're not trained for anything like that. To be fair though, I don't think the Conservatives ever really had an intention to give GPs those responsibilities directly.
It appears GPs are expected to form consortia and delegate those tricky matters to one of several circling private companies who do similar work in places like the USA and are eager to get their hands on British taxpayers' money and siphon a reasonable proportion of it into private pockets and back to the States.
Before the last general election Mr Cameron assured us all (through his teeth, the bright light reflected off the vast expanse of his forehead temporarily blinding us) that the NHS was safe in his hands and would not be subject to any major reorganisations. But it seems that Mr Lansley had been secretly working on these plans for many years.
I assume secretly, because it now appears that he did not consult with Mr Cameron (who did say "no major changes", didn't he?) nor with many people actually in the NHS, since all the objections have only recently emerged – which raises the question as to who was being consulted in order for Mr Lansley to come up with these terribly cunning plans in the first place.
David Bellamy, Barkstone Nottinghamshire
Just a few drinks
The Foreign Office urges people going abroad on stag and hen parties to buy travel insurance (report, 25 April). Even if they buy it, the insurance company may well refuse a claim. One of the exclusions from all sections of my travel policy is "You being under the influence of or in connection with the use of alcohol or drugs, unless as prescribed by a treating doctor." How many hens and stags drink nothing but water and orange juice?
Mike Conder, Southampton
The decade of the 1930s in Britain was a period of rising disposable incomes, due to an economic recovery fuelled by cheap money and protectionism and sustained later by rearmament. Your leader writer (25 April) must mean the 1920s, the period referred to by, among others, Mervyn King as one when disposable incomes fell. One consequence was that the incumbent government lost the general elections of 1923, 1924 and 1929 but not that of 1935.
Donald Roy, London SW15
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