The recent C4 documentary by Trevor Phillips about race, and the fear many have of been accused of racism, was thought-provoking. One aspect of the debate, touched upon briefly, was that of diversity. We are continually told there are not enough non-white people in certain walks of life.
If our country were once again to be seriously threatened by a foreign power, and we decided to re-open Bletchley Park to try to break our enemy’s codes, we would invite the cream of our generation, regardless of race or culture, to accept the challenge on our behalf. There would be white faces, brown faces, oriental faces and more in the mix. It would be the strongest team we could muster.
If a diversity-awareness counsellor then insisted that we had to alter the racial balance by introducing people from certain ethnic minorities, to hit government targets, would that make the team stronger or weaker?
You could use the same argument for the team of surgeons selected to perform life-saving surgery on a loved one, or the stress-analysis engineers designing the next wing to carry you across the Atlantic at 35,000 feet.
As we look to overcome our country’s many challenges, we’d be better off with more (colour-blind) meritocracies and fewer examples of box-ticking.
Some time ago The Independent published a letter from me in which I had written that any black Briton who asserted that the vast majority of violent, vomiting, loud and threatening inebriates to be found in our city centres and various Med holiday resorts were white would simply be stating a fact and this would in no way be a racist view.
Thus, any observation by a white Briton that the vast majority of muggings and stabbings on our inner city streets are carried out by those of Afro-Caribbean descent would also be making a factual comment and this would not be racist if it were made in the context of this being a problem that needed all of us to help resolve .
This week Trevor Phillips, in which he has stated pretty much what I have written. Is there now a chance that we can dispense with the multicultural fundamentalism and begin a rational discussion of the whole issue?
Michael R Gordon
Peter Moyes (letter, 19 March) could not be more wrong in his analysis (“multiculturalism has not worked”) and proposed solution (what is needed is “a tolerant monocultural society”).
The UK has always thrived because of its multiculturalism and all of us living here continue to reap the benefits. All societies can only improve by an evolutionary process – we are a different (and better) society today than in my parents’ time and this has been helped by the acceptance into our society by others from abroad.
Unlike Mr Moyes I think we do have “an overarching shared set of British values”, tolerance among them; they are just not the same as his. A monocultural mindset can only lead to cultural and moral stagnation.
Osborne’s pension pot wheeze
Allowing savers to take retirement funds as cash instead of as annuities is a great wheeze for the Treasury.
If you take a pension annuity you will pay tax on it as income at perhaps 20 per cent for many years. If you take a lump sum, you will get many years’ worth of pension all in one, but also pay tax on it all in one at 20 per cent, or perhaps at 40 or 45 per cent, depending on your present position. Good news for the Treasury.
Further, if the money stays with the pension providers, who invest generally in government stock, no tax is paid on their interest income. If you invest it yourself you will pay the usual tax on investment income, though not on the capital you spend. More good news for the Treasury. The £1,000 tax-free interest allowance is only a small compensation. Lots of pensions should provide a bigger income than this.
If Osborne had done these changes two or three years ago, he would have had a happier tax position now. But without the pensions investment in government stock, the government will find it harder to raise what money it still needs, so we can expect long-term interest rates to go up in due course. And in future years tax revenues will fall, since pensions will not be paid.
And unless you invest your cash fully, rather than spending it, the UK’s savings ratio will fall, since cashing the annuity should be counted as dis-saving. All bad for the economy.
The French won. Get over it
Thank you for your comprehensive and well-researched coverage of George Osborne’s Budget. Amid all the hollering, cheering, claims and counter-claims which this event generated, I noticed a small but telling item. It was that £1m is being set aside to commemorate the Battle of Agincourt. When will we ever grow up?
Let’s get a few facts right. Agincourt was a battle won in a war that was comprehensively lost. This proposed commemoration is akin to Germany allocating money in 2540 to celebrate victory in the Battle for France. And yet our obsession with Agincourt persists.
A search on the internet reveals the existence of what must be hundreds of books on the battle. By contrast, in a search for a book on the most decisive engagement of the Hundred Years’ War, at Patay, which was Agincourt in reverse (a small French army routed a much larger English force), I was able to find only one.
Can we stop this small-minded nonsense please?
Newcastle upon Tyne
Fighting the flood of junk mail
I was quite excited about Malcolm Watson’s helpful advice on opting out of receiving junk mail, courtesy of the Royal Mail (letter, 20 March).
However, upon digging out the website, and perusing the lengthy information given about what junk can be stopped from jamming up the front door I’m afraid I felt pretty deflated.
The service doesn’t stop anything addressed to “The Occupier”, which seems to be most of what I get. Nor the stacks of glossy depictions of pizzas, burgers, double-glazed windows and smug estate agents, the Parish Newsletter, invites to a glass of wine with the Residents Association, or those plastic bags from charities.
On top of that, you must send Royal Mail an email or letter, asking them to post you a letter, which says you wish to sign up for the Opt-Out service ... and then post this back to them, presumably to ensure you are in fact “The Occupier”.
Having said all that, I still bunged in an email. Might as well try and stop the odd 10 per cent, I suppose. Thanks, Malcolm.
Unlike Trevor Beaumont (letter, 19 March), I welcome junk mail. I discard everything but the reply-paid envelope, to which I adhere an address label, use it for my own correspondence and live happily ever after, with my extreme hatred of waste well satisfied.
Portrait of a writer’s moustache
I think Michael Glover should take another look at the John Singer Sargent portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife (Great Works, 14 March). The glints in the doorway are from the stair rod clips, and Mr Stevenson, by his own admission, is twirling his moustache, not scratching his face.
In 1885 Stevenson wrote in a letter: “Sargent was down again and painted a portrait of me walking about in my own dining-room, in my own velveteen jacket, and twisting as I go my own moustache; at one corner a glimpse of my wife, in an Indian dress, and seated in a chair that was once my grandfather’s.”
Mrs Vivian Brumpton
Bempton, East Riding of Yorkshire
Whose kitchen should I vote for?
Ed Miliband is mocked for his small utilitarian kitchen, and then further scorned for having two kitchens.
Perhaps Conservative ministers could give us guidance on the ideal kitchen arrangements, so that we can use this as a yardstick when deciding where to place our vote. I would prefer not to elect a candidate whose kitchen arrangements are suspect, as this seems to be something important to avoid.
Gandhi feels out of place
Mahatma Gandhi would spin in his grave if he knew there was a statue of himself in Parliament Square. Gandhi believed in truthfulness, non-violence and vegetarianism. Westminster believes in deceit (expenses scandal), violence (illegal wars) and animal exploitation (animal testing, fishing, shooting, meat, dairy and eggs).