Letters: Pfizer bid raises the great unasked question

These letters appear in the Thursday 8th May edition of the Independent

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The unease about the AstraZeneca sell-off to Pfizer is essentially a questioning of liberalisation. The Government and the City of London financial services industry want to avoid such questioning at all costs.

Since the Thatcher government, the UK has been the global model for liberalisation, taking for granted that all investment opportunities will be open to transnational and foreign investors so completely that it is never even mentioned. The results can be seen in both the private and public sectors.

In the private sector, we no longer own anything nationally. In the public sector the involvement of transnational and foreign corporations in privatisations of whichever kind (contracting, sell-offs, PFI) invokes international treaties that prevent any reversals of the underpinning privatisations – even when people want them reversed.

It is time to articulate what liberalisation means, that it has been a political choice and that there are alternatives. The 51 per cent domestic ownership that many other countries enforce would be one alternative.  

Linda Kaucher (Researcher, EU international trade policy), London E1

Not content with clamping a new serfdom on Britain, the Cameron gang has the nerve to bray that Britain is “open for business”. Read: “Britain’s wide open for mass corporate shafting. Boys, fill your boots, and all under the sacred banner of shareholder power.

“Oh, and be sure to repay us with nice comfy jobs when we get kicked out next year.”

Richard Humble, Exeter


Ukip trap for young Britons

The letter from 50 Ukip members (7 May) sounds all very reasonable, but I wonder how many of them are Romanians or Bulgarians. The repeated public comments by their leader about “Romanian criminal gangs” and the like are extremely offensive, and hardly likely to endear him to the many decent Romanians here who deplore criminality wherever it occurs.

Yes the UK could ban all migrants from EU countries if it was not a member, but migration is a two-way street. There are approximately as many Brits living and working in other EU countries as there are citizens of those countries living and working here. Those 2 million or more Brits would have no entitlement to live there if we were outside the EU. Young people today wish to be able to move freely across borders, without being restricted by narrow nationalisms.

Alan Pavelin, Chislehurst, Kent


I am appalled by Judith Woodford’s suggestion (letter, 3 May) that voting for Ukip might be regarded as the only option for the dissatisfied. If there is one thing that should dissuade people from this course of action it is what is happening in Ukraine. Were it not bad enough that there is already much religious-inspired conflict in both Africa and the Middle East, we are now faced with an unpredictable and overtly homophobic Russian president, in cahoots with the Orthodox Church and with scant regard for the rights of ethnic minorities in his country, fomenting unrest in a country on our doorstep.

For all its faults, the EU stands as a shining beacon of secular, liberal democracy in a world where the rise of reactionary extremists seems to be inexorable. The European democracies need to stand firm against this worrying trend and promote what we all believe in: freedom of expression, equal treatment of women, ethnic minorities and gay people, a free press, an independent judiciary, in fact all those things that we seem to agree make Britain great.

To adopt an isolationist approach at such a time, especially one fuelled by simplistic xenophobia, is irresponsible. If people really are that disaffected with the current political system they should spoil their ballot papers, not vote for a party many of whose attitudes would not have been out of place in the build up to the First World War.

Ian Richards, Birmingham


A privatised city centre

Sam Jacob no doubt has a valid argument in regard to practicality versus beauty in urban planning (“Why can’t new British towns be more like Milton Keynes?”, 6 May). But his choice of Milton Keynes as an example brought to mind experiences which exert a lasting influence on my own views Around five years ago my theatre company was contracted to perform in Milton Keynes ito promote a local council arts initiative and festival. Part of our brief, in addition to providing public street theatre, was to leaflet the local citizens on behalf of the council, raising awareness of various events.

Our leafleting task was made virtually impossible by the fact that the town is designed in such a way that the public are funnelled through the privately owned town centre, the surrounding roads being virtually deserted. The mall security guards were particularly zealous in making sure that we were not allowed to deliver the council’s leaflets to its citizens. Despite wide press coverage of the events, and our changing room being in the mall itself, we were repeatedly challenged by security by virtue of being in theatrical costumes. These constraints on freedom of communication and expression left me virtually incoherent with fury, both as an artist and as a citizen.

Milton Keynes no doubt has positive lessons for future urban planners but it also has major issues stemming from private corporate domination of the town centre. Future urban planning needs to take account of the reality that people are not merely mall-fodder and town centres should be properly constituted as public space.

Frank Kelly, London E9


Bob Gilmurray (letter, 5 May) detects heartlessness, callousness and moral cowardice in the church’s registration of properties which have chancel repair liabilities (CRL).

Ancient church buildings are not the club-house of the people who choose to worship there. No church with CRL is less than half a millennium old; these are important pieces of national heritage. Successive governments, including the present one, have decided that the existing funding arrangements such as CRL should continue.

Mr Gilmurray says that the householders are the innocent victims of CRL. However, a property with CRL was (or should have been) priced at a value which reflected this liability. If CRL is lifted, that is a pure windfall for a property owner. He or she bought at a discount, and can now sell at an enhanced price.

Mr Gilmurray suggests that parochial church councils should simply refuse to register CRL, in the belief that this will force the Government’s hand. A more likely consequence is that the Government will look the other way. If Mr Gilmurray dislikes CRL, then I suggest that he contact his MP on the subject, and see if he has any more luck than the rest of us.

The Venerable Paddy Benson, Archdeacon of Hereford


British or English?

It is not difficult to understand why ethnic minorities choose to call themselves British rather than English (“Rainbow nation”, 7 May). The British identity is a legal rather than a territorial or ethnic concept. You could once be British irrespective of whether you were living in Lahore or Leicester. The English identity, by contrast, is primordial.

Unless English identity embraces, without waiting for centuries of intermarriages, those who are legally but not ethnically English, most people from ethnic minorities would rather be British than English.

Randhir Singh Bains, Gants Hill, Essex


Who will care for the carers?

One cannot disagree that every possible help should be given to those who care for dementia sufferers (report, 7 May). However it should be remembered that there are at least as many carers of those suffering from other problems. Care is care, whatever the need for it.

As time passes the needs of the “carees” become every more complex and time-consuming and the strain on the army of unpaid carers increases. Unless help (particularly respite care) is forthcoming I can foresee a time when the carers will themselves need care.

B J Cairns, London N22


As 'generation rent' grows older

Jeremy Blythe (letter, 6 May) fears that a generation who have rented rather than bought their homes will have no resources to pay for old-age care. To his pertinent letter I would add: as well as the cost of care in old age, how are older people living on a pension going to be able to afford the high cost of rented property in the future?

Mark Morsman, London SE13