Letters: Power workers deserve praise not petty criticism

These letters were published in the 31st December edition of the Independent

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I am writing in support of power engineers, technicians and electricians, together with their support workers, labourers, drivers etc from all over the country for the work they have done in recent weeks during the inclement weather. And to say thank you to all those who have sacrificed their holiday with families for the benefit of the rest of us.

I am prompted by the incessant sniping and often combative attitude of the media. Topping the list are BBC News 24, Radio 4’s PM and The World at One and practically every phone-in on 5 Live. When you know nothing of the subject, don’t be so critical.

The most corrosive vitriol came from a contributor on PM who appeared to be saying that she actually had a right to a power supply on a continuous basis without interruption, ever. What astonishing naivety.

I fully understand that most of the complaint was about restoration times, but the work involved in these circumstances is complex and usually hazardous. It is not a simple question of just flicking a switch.

There are not vast pools of spare staff waiting for a call; they have to be transferred from other projects. This involves travel: not easy when roads are closed. The circuits affected are then assessed and must be made safe before work begins.

Next, locating the fault means travelling over challenging terrain, as routes are often across open country. Equipment and materials have to be positioned, while all the time working in extreme weather. Damaged items have to be dismantled and removed before any reinstatement can start.

The repair zone may extend over large distances, the work is arduous, and heavy equipment is required. How many of you reading this would be able to climb poles or towers in high winds and operate complex tools in cold, driving rain?

And the job is not finished. Equipment and broken fittings have to be removed to a safe location, maybe hauled through flooded fields. All the repaired circuits must then be tested – time-consuming when things are perfect, never mind in adverse conditions. The restoration procedures then begin.

I hope this helps alleviate the frustrations of consumers – who want uninterrupted service yet still demand lower prices. Please be more realistic.

J D Woodcock

Annan, Dumfriesshire

 

A common response to the disruption following the recent storms has been to say: “This should not be happening in the 21st century.” The reality is that this is happening precisely because it is the 21st century.

The assumption that “progress” should enable us to solve our problems instantly ignores the fact that it is progress that is the cause of our problems. Sophisticated technologies enable ever more complex societies to push survival strategies to the limit while their environmental impact ensures our climate will become ever more precarious and extreme.

As global civilisation teeters on the brink of sustainability, we need to temper our expectations to the realisation that, as we blunder our way to oblivion, all this is happening because it is the 21st century.

Dominic Kirkham

Manchester

With storms raging across the UK, trains delayed and ferries not sailing, it does not seem an appropriate time to make 400 members of the Environment Agency redundant. Unless we accept climate change is happening, I cannot see much of a future for our grandchildren.

Valerie Crews

Beckenham, London

 

Muslim Demands no longer surprise

The case of a Marks & Spencer Muslim sales assistant refusing to serve alcohol is yet another instance of Muslims seeking special privileges. We have recently had demands for segregated seating at universities organised by Islamic societies, and for students at the LSE to remove Jesus and Mo T-shirts on the grounds that they constituted “harassment” of Muslim students.

The problem is that “separate rights” and the importance of cultural and religious differences in our supposedly multi-faith and multicultural society have become so embedded that such separatist demands are no longer surprising.

The law is not helpful as it allows religious people to sue employers for “indirect discrimination” if their religious beliefs are not accommodated. This is what happened in a case in 2008 when a hijab-wearing Muslim woman took the owner of a hair salon to an employment tribunal when she was refused a job. The tribunal awarded her £4,000 for “injury to feelings”.

Now if employers do not hire or remove Hindus who refuse to handle beef, or Jews and Muslims who refuse to handle pork, there is every likelihood of the prospect of legal action on the grounds of “injury to religious feelings”.

The alienation felt by the majority – by and large, irreligious – society cannot be underestimated.

Dr Rumy Hasan

Senior Lecturer, SPRU – Science & Technology Policy Research,

University of Sussex

The decision by Marks & Spencer to, in effect, exempt Muslim employees from having to handle alcohol is counter-productive. What next?

Will agnostics working in bookshops be allowed to refuse to sell Bibles?

There is no reason (other than fear of them) why Muslims should be treated as a privileged group – immune to the rules that apply to the rest of us.

Robert Readman

Bournemouth

 

Sally Bland (letter, 27 December) claims that halal and kosher meat providers “are allowed to only employ people of their own faith”.

As far as the kosher trade is concerned, this is simply not true. Many non-Jews are employed in all aspects of the trade, with the exception of the actual slaughtering and other religiously mandated activities.

Martin D Stern

Salford, Greater Manchester

 

Britain’s complete U-turn on Bulgaria

I was once privileged to serve as British ambassador to Bulgaria. While I was there, the communist system collapsed.

Political parties sprang up, eager for contact with the West. And my instructions changed. Where only a few weeks earlier I had been tasked with criticising the regime’s abuse of human and civil rights, now I was a proselytiser for all things Western (British especially), for pluralist democracy and civil society, for freedoms of markets, movement, association, religion – for almost everything the Bulgarians had been denied.

Through the Know How Fund, a marvellously adaptable British aid mechanism, we were able to help Bulgaria start rejoining the civilised world. Implicit in all this activity, and growing in strength, was our encouragement of Bulgarian ambitions to reach out and become part of a new and wider Europe. And right from the beginning, we made it plain that Britain was Bulgaria’s new firm friend. So it surprises and saddens me that only a few years later it has become British Government policy to demonise Bulgaria, as though it was some evil, hostile power intent on overwhelming our fragile state.

Where has this ludicrous xenophobia sprung from? Where is the strength of leadership that can say boo to the Daily Mail and Ukip geese, instead of passing “emergency” legislation only days before the New Year’s Day Armageddon when, apparently, we shall all be flattened by a tidal wave of Bulgarian benefit scroungers? 

Richard Thomas

Winchelsea, East Sussex

 

There were many thousands of turings

The Queen’s announcement of a posthumous pardon for Alan Turing is to be greatly welcomed. However, the British state seems prepared to forgive historical homosexual acts providing they were performed by a national hero or academic giant. This is the opposite of the correct message.

Turing should be forgiven not because he was a modern legend, but because he did nothing wrong. The law was wrong when it was used against an estimated 75,000 other men, whether they were famous scientists or office clerks. To single out Turing is to say that these men are less deserving of justice because they were somehow less exceptional.

The 2012 Protection of Freedoms Act allows those convicted of homosexuality offences to apply to have their criminal records removed if the facts of the case would no longer count as a crime

There is no reason why this provision could not be extended to cover all those convicted, living or dead, without the requirement for a personal application – to be called Turing’s Law perhaps? That really would be a fitting tribute to a national hero.

Alex Orr

Edinburgh

 

After pressure from the Lords, Alan Turing, whose nephew is a baronet, is (rightly) pardoned for being guilty of being in a private homosexual relationship with a working-class Mancunian, Arnold Murray. Does the royal prerogative stretch to Mr Murray, or does the Establishment only look after its own ?

Colin Burke

Manchester

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