Letters: Protesters confront the City

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The Independent Online

Even The Independent seems to be slipping too easily into lumping all these demonstrators together as "anti-capitalist". No doubt there are a few old-fashioned Marxists among them; but I wonder how many are not against capitalism but simply against the excesses and abuses of some of its modern manifestations.

Some might even plausibly claim to be doughty defenders of the economic system within which Adam Smith first identified that famous invisible hand.

Mike McKinley

Steeple Aston, Oxfordshire

You quote a City type, faced with anti-capitalist demonstrators, complaining that "I don't think they appreciate what the City contributes" (18 October).

Too right, we don't; because they have never troubled to explain it to us. The public perception of "the City" is of a gang of wide-boys making million-pound bonuses by gambling with other people's money. It is a world so distant from ordinary people's experience that it might as well be in Outer Mongolia.

Perhaps somebody from "the City" would care to tell us, through your pages, how our lives would be affected if all the merchant bankers, brokers, derivatives-traders, short-sellers and the rest of them were suddenly to be swept away.

John Smurthwaite


If our political leaders really seek an end to the crisis they should consider the advice of FDR in his inaugural address in 1933: "Finally in our progress towards a resumption of work we require two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order; there must be a strict supervision of all banking and credit and investment; there must be an end to speculation with other people's money; and there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency."

In the same year, the Glass-Steagall Act came into force.

Peter Fieldman


Shalit is home, but what about the Palestinians?

Israel and its western media allies have focused on the release of Gilad Shalit. The 1,027 Palestinians also released have been ignored. The world also does not seem to want to know about the remaining 6,000 Palestinian prisoners languishing in Israeli jails of whom 750 have not even been charged and of whom 164 are children.

Israeli organisations such as B'Tselem and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel have documented the abuse of Palestinian prisoners of whom over 200 have died in prison.

What have we Palestinians done to deserve this fate?

Dr Faysal Mikdadi

Dorchester, Dorset

The Palestinians have, since 1948, continuously squandered the opportunity for nationhood. First they rejected the UN partition plan of 1947, then 20 years later after the Six-Day War they, along with the united Arab command, pronounced the infamous three "noes" in response to Israel's offer to negotiate "everything". No recognition of Israel, no negotiations and no peace.

Today Israel has shown willingness to negotiate with even the most nefarious terrorist organisation – Hamas – in return for Gilad Shalit. Over 1,000 Palestinians have been released; many are multiple murderers who have been justly tried and sentenced. Yet Israel has made this very painful concession. Deeds, not rhetoric, speak volumes.

Andrew J Shaw


While Shalit is going home, many of the released Palestinian prisoners are not being allowed to do so. Some of those from the West Bank are being sent to Gaza or to other countries including Turkey, Syria and Qatar as they are deemed to be a "security risk" by Israel.

The likelihood is that they will never be allowed back to the West Bank, their homes and their families, in another example of Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land.

James Tarlton


Letwin's example to Whitehall

We owe a debt of gratitude to Oliver Letwin for his lead in showing the Government that substantial savings can be made by conducting state business al fresco.

Just think what economies could be effected by selling off all those palatial buildings in Whitehall for use as hospitals, nursing homes, schools and affordable houses.

Government business could all be handled in St James's Park. There are plenty of park benches. One could be for the Home Secretary, one for the Foreign Secretary, and so on. There would be enough room on each bench for a parliamentary private secretary and a junior civil servant or two. Memos could be passed from one ministry to another just by strolling across the path.

There are even plenty of litter bins to act as filing cabinets, and no doubt deck chairs could be brought out for Cabinet meetings.

John Holmes

Greenhithe, Kent

Apprentices are an investment

Recent weeks have highlighted good news and bad news. First there was the magnificent performance of the UK skills team at the WorldSkills competition held in London. Coming fifth in the world, Team UK won five gold medals, two silver, six bronze and 12 medallions of excellence in competition with some of the manufacturing powerhouses of the world.

Such positive news is under-reported while we read headlines about growing unemployment, particularly among young people.

We are employers who are committed to apprenticeships and the acquisition of skills in the workforce. We have seen the interest, enthusiasm and motivation of the apprentices we employ. In the main, the training costs are funded in partnership with government.

Now is the time to invest in apprenticeships. All of our research shows a positive return on investment in a relatively short time. Encouragingly, there are plans to increase the number of higher-level apprenticeships.

We need to increase our skills base and young people are desperate for opportunities to develop rewarding careers. Increasingly, apprenticeships are offering them an attractive alternative to an academic education.

The only stumbling block is that there are not enough employers who will consider running an apprenticeship recruitment programme. We urge employers of all sizes and sectors to consider offering an apprenticeship to fill their next vacancy.

Sir Roy Gardner; Chairman, Compass Group, and Chairman, Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network

David Bell; JC Bamford Excavators

Clare Chapman; BT Group

Mark Clare; Barratt Developments

John Cridland; Director-General, CBI

Christine Gaskell; Bentley Motors

Greg Penn; Nissan UK

Rear Admiral Al Rymer; Director of Training and Education, Ministry of Defence

Hayley Tatum; Asda

Mike Turner; Chairman, Babcock International Group

Nigel Whitehead; BAE Systems

Stuart Britton; Chief Executive, RDL Corporation

Ian Ferguson CBE; Chairman of Trustees, MetaSwitch Networks & Data Connection Ltd

Roger Goodman; Group Corporate Development Director, MITIE Group plc

Richard Harpin; Chief Executive, Homeserve plc

Rod Kenyon; Director, Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network

George Kessler CBE; Joint Deputy Chairman, Kesslers International Ltd

Anthony Massouras; Chief Executive, Mimosa Healthcare Group Ltd

David Owens; Chief Executive Officer, Enserve Group Ltd

Tony Pidgley; Chairman, Berkeley Group Holdings plc        

Martyn Price; Managing Director, CMC Ltd

Rear Admiral Al Rymer; Director of Training & Education, Ministry of Defence

Ian Sarson; Group Managing Director UK & Ireland, Compass Group plc

Simon Swords; Managing Director, Atlas Computer Systems Ltd

Why libraries are closing

Boyd Tonkin (17 October) accuses Brent Council of inflicting more damage on the capital than the August riots by closing six of its 12 libraries.

The piece says that Brent "dispatched wrecking crews" at the six closed libraries on the day that judgement was passed at the High Court. All libraries across the borough were closed that day, so that library staff could attend a meeting about the changes to the service. The six libraries which will remain closed were secured shut to protect the buildings while they remain unoccupied.

I understand the strong opposition to library closures, but Brent's library programme was not a knee-jerk money-saving reaction to budgetary cuts but a well thought-out policy based on visitor numbers and the state of the buildings.

Most people living in Brent still have a library no more than a mile and a half from their homes and they will now be able to visit them seven days a week and enjoy more books (traditional and electronic), better internet access and regular cultural and family events when they get there.

Since the proposals for the future of Brent's libraries were first announced several months ago, attendance figures for each of the six libraries in question have actually fallen.

In choosing to deal with central government cuts by concentrating our resources on a smaller number of first-class libraries, Brent is avoiding the "genteel decline" of libraries – the only alternative – where libraries have fewer and fewer books, are open for fewer and fewer days and are attended by fewer and fewer people.

Cllr James Powney

Lead Member for Environment and Neighbourhoods

Brent Council

Wembley, Middlesex

Progressive policeman

Your report of the sad passing of John Alderson (obituary, 18 October) reminded me of the occasion some 30 years ago when, as Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall, he addressed the annual conference of the National Association of Probation Officers (like many unions at that time, disproportionately left-wing.) The audience was sceptical and even a little hostile. However he quickly won us over with this opening comment: "I feel like a lion in a den of Daniels."

He was a remarkable man who thought deeply and understood that there were no quick and easy answers. Many of his progressive ideas were taken up later, without the acknowledgement due to their originator.

John Doylend

Bungay, Suffolk

Acts of empathy

One of the several merits of wearing a removable cap rather than a helmet when cycling is that it enables one to pay respect to strangers on their final journey ("The death of funeral etiquette", 18 October). It is upon such traditional courtesies that our society was created – and ultimately will or will not survive. We ignore such acts of empathy at our cost, with no better example than the child road-casualty in China ignored by passers-by.

Roy Spilsbury

Penmaenmawr, Conwy

Shifting blame

I am increasingly irritated by the constant references to the "mess left by the last government" (letter, 18 October) when the mess is a direct result of Thatcher policies. The electorate were bribed by tax cuts – most of my working life the basic rate of tax was 33 per cent, which would have produced 60 per cent more income than at present. The banks were deregulated, leading to the crisis caused by gambling, and the privatisation of utilities switched their focus from providing a service to making a profit.

R E Hooper

Stratford on Avon

Time for reform

Why is it that the times when the NHS is in "urgent need of reform" invariably coincide with a new government coming into office? Why can't health care, education and transport be left to the professionals rather than the politicians – as in just about every civilised country except ours?

Tom Simpson