Letters: Progressive Lib Dems

True progressives should vote Liberal Democrat
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Andrew Adonis's thoughtful article (9 April) on the historical perspective of progressive government in Britain would have been more credible if he had urged Labour voters in Lib Dem/Tory marginals to vote Liberal Democrat. This would confirm the logic of his argument.

As the Liberal Democrat Transport spokesman who sits opposite Lord Adonis, may I say how far he falls short of the radical and cost-saving agenda we propose?

Despite his friendliness, he rejects most of our suggestions for immediate improvements on our railways. His electrification plans adopt the wrong priorities. He proposes solutions to our rolling-stock shortages which are expensive, inappropriate and cost British jobs. The Labour Party gave us Network Rail, which is inefficient and needs reform.

He refuses to advance even cautiously along the road-pricing agenda.

He supports the expansion of Heathrow and affirms his support for the present flawed and expensive means of appraising transport projects.

His railway franchising system is based on increasing fares in real terms rather than our proposed gradual reductions.

If people want an improved transport system a strong Liberal Democrat voice in the next Parliament is essential, which in most cases is how progressives should vote.

Lord Bradshaw

House of Lords

Lord Adonis says that "the fundamental Labour-Lib Dem identity of interest can best be served by Labour coming out of the election as strong as possible, able to form a government".

As a former Labour activist I can tell his Lordship that I do not want to see Labour forming a government because I do not want to see the introduction of ID cards and the forced registration of every citizen's private details on the National Identity Register when they renew their passport. The Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, Greens, Ukip, Plaid Cymru and the SNP are all committed to abolition of the scheme.

Nick Wray


Tory manifesto for local chaos

The Tory manifesto seems to be a recipe for chaos in public life.

Setting up your own schools is a sop to the affluent. Small units, if supported out of taxation, will be very expensive. What then happens about the cost of the empty places in neighbouring state schools? It is unlikely that the take-up of these new "parent schools" will remove large numbers from the state schools, but could be just enough to raise the per capita cost and cause teacher redundancies.

I also fail to see how these "parent schools" can provide the kind of resources with which today's children are familiar. It sounds as though we are going back to the "dame schools" of the 19th century.

It shows how detached the Tory leaders are from the realities of life if they think that there are thousands of volunteers just waiting for the call to take on all sorts of roles, one of which is being a councillor in local government.

Who would want to become a councillor if all their hard work was set at nought by a veto by local people with no responsibility for the provision of services who have a selfish desire to cut the council tax against the wishes of the elected representatives?

One interpretation of this proposal is that it gives an opportunity for Tory activists in a non-Tory controlled area to undermine their opponents without having any responsibility for the consequences, one of which is likely to be drastic cuts in local services and widespread staff redundancies.

David Selby


The Tories are determined to finish the job they started when last in power: the destruction of local government.

The Tories' "big society" idea of localism does not include local democracy, because all forms of democracy are the enemy of unaccountable private interests.

Big business is backing the Tories not least because it knows any further weakening of local accountability would give it almost unfettered access to the local economy, with devastating consequences for small businesses and the community generally.

Privatising local communities, turning them into unpaid lobbyists and service providers, will not devolve power. Liberal Democrats are determined to break the hold of those with a vested interest in the status quo.

Stephen Jackson

Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex

Your leading article of 9 April claims that Gordon Brown's talk of "Labour investment" versus "Tory cuts" was unconvincing. But the Tories have said they would already have cut public-sector spending far more than Labour has done.

We all know that there will be cuts whoever wins this election. But Britain's millions of public sector workers surely understand the difference. On the one hand a party serious enough to kick off its campaign with an unpopular tax increase. On the other a bunch of chancers with "no plans" to raise taxes.

Presumably the Tories mean to cut job after job until the economy is fixed. As long as that sounds like a plan to Britain's hugely overpaid and under-performing business leaders, the debate will remain somewhat unreal.

Dave Woods


Show respect for the voters

The public aren't voting for politicians' wives. They do not represent us. Their presence in the campaign is an insult to the public.

The election is serious, the country is in a mess and we have our military engaged in war, causing terrible injuries and death not only to them but to innocent civilians. The smiles and twitter are an insult to us all.

Mo Maddock


As a political junkie I am thoroughly enjoying all the coverage in the newspapers and on radio and TV that will be pumped out in the next few weeks. However, I have one niggle: I wish there could be a grown-up debate.

The complexities of a modern democracy mean that not everything is necessarily black and white. If only the parties, all of them, could now and again credit their opponents when they think that they have done something right; we then might believe them when they criticise their opponents for things they perceive as wrong.

Otherwise it all becomes, for many people, white noise, which is very damaging to democracy.

Angela Peyton

Beyton, Suffolk

What this country really needs is a leader, not a manager. Let us hope the political parties' campaigns show how their leaders will lead. They could all start by explaining the relevance of these quotations from Lao Tzu (Book One, XVII):

"The best of all rulers is but a shadowy presence to his subjects. Next comes the ruler they love and praise. Next comes one they fear. Next comes one with whom they take liberties."

"When his task is accomplished and his work done the people all say, 'It happened to us naturally.'"

Kartar Uppal

West Bromwich, West Midlands

Red tape snags power of attorney

In "My father's story" Gillian Row (1 April) recommends obtaining a power of attorney for elderly relatives.

Just over 20 years ago I held an old-style power of attorney for an elderly aunt, and with authority to sign her cheques I was able to look after her with the help of an "old-style" solicitor. I was able to transfer her to a nursing home, pay her bills, sell her house etc.

A few years ago, my husband and I saw a solicitor with a view to obtaining enduring power of attorney for each other. The solicitor held up his hands in horror at the work involved in the new-style power of attorney – at least 120 pages with numerous questions. He gave us a copy to look at. Needless to say, we abandoned the idea and trusted that all would be OK if we were able to sign each others' cheques and crossed our fingers for the future.

Again, heavy-handed legislation to cover the few who might abuse trust.

Heulwen Evans

Ruthin, Clywd

Only the other people pay taxes

Dominic Lawson (13 April) is so right when he says: "The public want honesty, but not when it comes to their taxes." The ever-present support for an equal share in contributing to the wellbeing of the economy was never less evident than at the time of the poll tax protests. Putting your money where your mouth is costs money, and there is always someone else better able to contribute than oneself.

Robert Vincent

Wildhern, Hampshire

For once, I actually agree with a Dominic Lawson article. I would just add two comments.

Half the population believe there is an inexhaustible pot of money somewhere which the Government simply has to tax. The conspicuous consumption of the rich contributes to this belief. The electorate also believes that wealth is created on the backs of the poor, so they are entitled to a share. Why they personally should be entitled is another question.

If the economy was as bad as people say, politicians would stop playing politics and devise a sensible solution with which they could all agree. Politics and politicians contribute to the unreality of government.

Martin London


Stand up and be discounted

It's not really fair for Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (12 April) to describe Johnny Vegas as one of the "sons of Bernard Manning", trampling over "the last pathetic remains of political correctness", in her otherwise reasonable piece on stand-up. Michael Pennington's Johnny Vegas character is not "politically incorrect" in any definition of the phrase as I understand it. Jokes about race, presumed gender inferiority, disability, and sexual orientation are entirely absent from his work.

I wonder which parts of Johnny's back catalogue Yasmin had in mind here? His pottery-themed solo shows of the 1990s? His rather sensitive BBC3 sit-com Ideal? His Shakespearean acting gigs? His V&A exhibit? The site-specific theatre piece on the idea of home he devised with me for the Manchester International Festival?

Yasmin is aware presumably of the kind of explicitly racist things that Manning used to say? Is she seriously equating what Johnny does with these? Or is it that, like most columnists currently spouting off about this story, she feels the art-form of stand-up is so beneath her that she doesn't need to know anything about the artists she is passing judgement on?

Stewart Lee

London N16


Tea fit for heroes?

I see that Spar are to market Naafi tea as "the beverage of choice for the British Armed Forces since 1921". Had I been told there was a choice I, for one, would have chosen something else.

Simon Dunn


Market forces

It is heartening to read that Brixton Market has just been saved from redevelopment and given Grade II listing status by the Government. Congratulations to Thomas Mendelsohn on his article (12 April) about the insidious, creeping gentrification by developers and chain stores that is threatening the social and business life blood of some of our historic city markets such as Portobello and Camden Passage, which are currently fighting courageous rearguard actions.

Clive Loveless

London W10

Card sharks

Why does this government condone the banks, many of which it "owns", imposing interest rates of 30 per cent and above on their credit cards? Anyone who operated a system in the workplace or the doorstep of lending money and charging 25p in every pound, could be arrested and imprisoned. The latter are branded "loan sharks" while the former are said to be just carrying out a legitimate business.

Terry Duncan

Bridlington, East Yorkshire

Incoming ravens

When I lived in South Devon in 1974-75 I saw ravens regularly (letter, 8 April). The farm where I lived was on a "roost flight line" and, while numbers flying over varied, on 17 November 1974 I recorded no fewer than 70. Their arrival in Sussex has been part of their recent spread eastwards. The county now holds a small but slowly growing population, notably along the coastal cliff and inland quarries.

Peter Brown


Clean but boring

Reader's Digest or Hello! in the GP waiting room (letter, 12 April)? Chance would be a fine thing. Our local medical centre has removed all reading matter (and the toys from the toddlers' corner) in the name of good hygiene. Oh how I sometimes long for a bug-laden back copy of Reader's Digest when all the patients before me take three times their allotted 10 minutes with the GP!

Diane Reeder

Great Bookham, Surrey