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- Arts + Ents
Monday 13 February 2012
Letters: Religion and politics
I was disappointed by The Independent's coverage of the council prayers ruling. I would have thought a journal that prides itself on promoting freedom and justice would have welcomed a judgment which could end the imposition of religion on local councillors.
Instead of praising the end of this forced worship, your report ("Christians outraged after court rulings", 11 February) concentrated on the idiotic comments by the Christian Institute and the ludicrous claim by Eric Pickles that Britain is a Christian country.
Worse still was Chris Bryant's article "How sanctimonious and uptight do you have to be to object to these prayers?" Well actually Chris, I think most people would object to being subjected to prayers during meetings at work. I certainly wouldn't stand for it, and I don't see why councillors should either.
You failed to make it clear that this ruling doesn't restrict those council members who wish to from praying before or after the meeting. Prayers that are said as part of council business will be imposed on everyone – an abuse of the basic right to freedom of belief, as well as an inappropriate use of taxpayers' money.
Whatever their own beliefs regarding religion, politicians at all levels represent their constituents in a secular capacity. Religion is a personal matter and it should be kept out of politics.
Vale of Glamorgan
Communities secretary Eric Pickles says the Localism Act gives local authorities more power: "Local authorities will be in a position to be able to do what they have always done, which is to have prayers before a meeting."
Bideford Council has "Prayers" as an item on their agenda; they do not "have prayers before a meeting". The prayers were there as one of the items of council business; by what stretch of the imagination can prayers be considered to be part of the business of a council?
Yardley Gobion, Northamptonshire
Chris Bryant's accusation that secularists are being "sanctimonious and uptight" over prayers being put on the agenda for council business is a projection of his own feelings about secularism. Secularists are constantly labelled as militant and extremist when we object to the encroachment of religion into public life. An example of this is the escalating handover of state schools to the religious.
No secularist wants to prevent the religious from following their beliefs. All we ask is to live our lives free from the trappings of religion and the instructions purportedly coming from holy books.
We ask only that they give us the tolerance they demand of us. We don't even need their respect, and we don't mind if jokes or cartoons are made at our expense. We don't nurse such fragile feelings that we cannot bear to have them offended.
It is more than a little worrying that some councillors and Members of Parliament wish to cease the tradition of saying prayers prior to attending to the business of the day.
With the overwhelming problems these public servants are facing, you would assume they would be more than grateful for any assistance, no matter the source.
Lib Dems relaxed about 'rebellion'
I read with rising hilarity your story "Lib Dems rocked by anti-Clegg rebellion" (9 February). Its two basic suppositions were that a new faction called Liberal Left was threatening the leadership, and the opinion polls were leading the party toward destruction.
The two luminaries of the new group are Richard Grayson and Baroness Jenny Tonge. Well, to be frank, I'd be staggered to have read at any time over the last 10 years a press story trumpeting either of these two splendid colleagues "backing the Lib Dem leadership". If they have done so, such a miraculous event has passed me by.
You then went on to demonstrate, with the use of the latest opinion poll, how we are apparently going down the pan, rather ignoring the fact that in the poll we had just gone up 1 per cent.
Stephen Lloyd MP
(Eastbourne, Lib Dem)
House of Commons
"Lib Dems rocked by anti-Clegg rebellion" shouts your front page. It's hard to square this noise with the reality.
LibDemVoice.org, an independent website, regularly surveys party members' views of the Coalition – support for it has never dipped below 83 per cent. True, that means a small minority of Lib Dems are opposed to it, and that's just fine: as a democratic party we're intensely relaxed about constructive criticism.
To suggest their actions amount to a "rebellion" which will "rock" the party is just empty hype.
Why GPs oppose NHS changes
Your article (8 February) suggesting that Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs, is opposing the Government's reforms of the NHS out of self-interest was grossly misleading.
The Hurley Group, of which Dr Gerada is a partner, is well placed to exploit the larger and more aggressive healthcare market this government wishes to create. If self-interest were driving Dr Gerada she would be one of the Health Bill's most vociferous supporters. She is instead one of the Bill's most consistent critics.
Her opposition is shared by the majority of the Royal College of General Practitioners. It is not just GPs who want this Bill withdrawn. They are joined by tens of thousands of other health professionals – nurses, midwives, physiotherapists and most recently public health specialists, whose faculty has publicly demanded that the Government withdraw the Bill. And an increasing number of the public – NHS users – share these concerns. The widespread opposition to the Bill is driven not by self-interest but by an analysis which indicates that the reorganisation will cause more harm than good to health and social care and that it will ultimately damage the health of the people of England.
The insinuation that Dr Gerada's critique of the Government's plans could be motivated by self-interest is informed by unattributed senior Government sources who are panicking now that there is a wider realisation of the damage that the Bill will cause.
Professor of Sociology and Public Health, Lancaster University
Hon Professor of Public Health, Kings College London
Dr Alison Forrester
Clinical Advisor to North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust
Professor John Ashton
County Medical Officer for Cumbria
Dr Jonathon Tomlinson
General Practitioner, London
and 17 others
Get out the old jumper
So research from uSwitch shows that a £1,500 a year energy bill is the tipping point at which three-quarters of households start rationing their energy ("End energy profiteering", 10 February). Rationing? Didn't we used to call this putting a jumper on?
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
We are constantly reading about the high cost of domestic gas and electricity. There is another form of energy never mentioned and that is Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).
Many of us live in isolated areas and are dependent on LPG. The cost of 60p or more per litre is exorbitant and should be investigated. There is little or no competition between suppliers.
G J Southgate
We used to have a workable way of managing fuel prices. It was called public ownership. It did not carry a legal requirement to maximise shareholder benefit.
Break with these tired TV clichés
Tom Sutcliffe (10 February) is not alone in being sick of 40-minute television documentaries drawn out to an hour. This padding-out has become tiresomely predictable – the endless opening credits, the repetitions, the racing clouds, blurred flames and forests; bit-part actors in wigs writing with quills, or waving swords in slow motion.
Programmes have to have a celebrity presenter to obstruct our view of the pictures he or she is talking about and to gaze in wonder at architecture which we hardly see. The format insults our intelligence, the condescending director presuming that our feeble attention spans cannot fix on anything for more than a few seconds.
If schedules must be the hour, the whole hour and nothing but the hour, might not television adopt the old cinema format of the A Feature and the B Feature, reducing programmes to 40 minutes and commissioning succinct 20-minute fillers? It would present invaluable opportunities to young film-makers to present new visions, break with the old clichés, and invent new ones.
London N4 2SW
Too many children
Karen Rodgers (letter, 11 February) has jumped to the conclusion that any effort to reduce population growth is necessarily coercive, involving oppressive governments. It is many decades since that approach has been practised or advocated. She remarks that it is parents, not politicians, who are to determine family size. Quite so, but how are they to make decisions about family size when they are denied the means?
According to UN figures 210 million women worldwide would use family planning if they had access to it.
Karen Rodgers' letter in opposition to Alan Stedall's advocacy of "population control" appeared next to Christina Patterson's excellent column on the BBC series Protecting Our Children. I wonder if Karen Rodgers has been watching this series and, if so, if she still believes that encouraging people to have fewer children is cruel, mindless and barbaric.
Approximately two children a week die in their own homes at the hands of their "carers" and thousands more are born to people who are unable (for a variety of reasons) to provide the most basic nurturing environment. The words "family" and "parents" don't always paint the rosy picture Ms Rodgers may imagine.
Why can't these "very, very patient" social workers observed by Christina Patterson persuade those young women with alcoholic and violent partners, no jobs, and no prospects in life to have a coil fitted? Thus, the vicious circle of foster carers, young offenders' institution, and prison would be broken and fewer children taken into care.
David Ridge (letter, 11 February) forgets that the apparently see-through politicians he mentions have no choice but to speak as though they are "clear", because of the need for "transparency" in government.
On the bicentenary of his birth, it's worth contemplating on the wonderful novels Charles Dickens might have written had he been able complete a modern-day creative writing course.
Dr Ron Dawson
Winterborne Stickland, Dorset
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