Letters: Rennard’s lesson for the world of politics

These letters were published in the 23rd January edition of the Independent

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Leaving to one side Lord Rennard’s guilt or innocence, in all the opinions aired the fundamental point raised by the Rennard affair seems in danger of being missed.

Yes of course those women alleging his inappropriate conduct could have administered a slap on the wrist or a smartly aimed heel, but why should they have to do this, or even find themselves in this position in the first place?

I worked for many years in a large multi-national and in all that time it was always abundantly clear to all employees that each should be treated with respect, irrespective of race, gender and more recently, of sexual orientation. While this was reinforced by HR policies and a well-developed grievance and disciplinary procedure, it was, and this is the crucial point, embedded in the organisation’s culture. The sort of behaviour alleged would not have been tolerated, and had it occurred would have been dealt with.

The real issue is that respectful behaviour must become similarly embedded in the culture of Parliament and the political parties, so that all those entering either House are placed in no doubt that inappropriate behaviour is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.

Why on earth, in the 21st century, can Parliament not simply follow the example set by large businesses by being absolutely clear on the behaviour expected, and why cannot the political parties adopt and embed the culture and supporting processes found to be so effective by large corporations?

Mark Albrow, Hampton, Middlesex

Barbara Sanders is missing two key points in her critique of the women who complained about Lord Rennard (letter, 22 January).

First, there is the crucial question of power. Chris Rennard was their boss, a person with influence over the careers of the young women concerned. Second, there is no justification for anyone, male or female, to assume that invasion of personal space is acceptable. It isn’t. An assumption that a man may do this to a woman, wittingly or otherwise, without causing offence still is far too widespread.

I expect that few women who have worked for over 40 years in mixed environments have avoided the unwanted pat, “footsie” or over-close thigh, often from people senior to us, usually when we were young and unable to deal directly with the offender. Congratulations are due to those who in a meeting or other formal space have been brave enough to clearly ask the offender to stop, or who have dealt with their boss via a slap or stiletto. A rare breed in my experience; the rest of womanhood has come to rely on good employment practice to deal with their situation.

Sadly, it transpires that the Liberal Democrats have no such practice and their Byzantine constitution has ensured that the Rennard saga is a complete mess.

Paula Jones, London SW20

Hungarian far right not welcome here

I read with dismay that the Hungarian Jobbik party intends to visit England shortly. As a British citizen who lived in Budapest for nearly 10 years, I am appalled to think that this government is going to allow this group to speak in the UK.

Jobbik appeals to Hungary’s poorly educated young nationalists, who have been taught that Hungary has been treated badly by the rest of Europe and that by following Nazi ideals of persecution of minorities it will be able to regain its (perceived) status in the world.

I lived 50 metres from Heroes Square (Budapest’s Trafalgar Square) and was disgusted to see members of Jobbik being allowed to rally in the national square, whilst burning effigies of Jews and chanting anti-semitic filth. The Hungarian police, who have many Jobbik supporters within their ranks, are always present and are very often seen singing along and joining in the rally.

People are housebound during these rallies and gypsies (Roma) dare not be seen on the streets at risk of their lives. I have seen first-hand how the Roma are treated in Hungary and how Jobbik supporters are allowed to desecrate Jewish cemeteries for fun.

In any other EU country Jobbik’s conduct would result in arrest and prosecution. We would be doing a service for the rest of Europe if we banned Jobbik from entering the country, encouraging other decent, right-minded countries to do the same.

Paul Stanford, Devizes, Wiltshire

Storm warning for Nigel Farage

Most of us are aware that the evidence for man-made climate change and the need for world leaders to address the problem with urgency are compelling. Though we cannot yet be certain, this climate change could be largely responsible for the weather patterns that have subjected us in the UK to all the floods, along with the current blistering heat in Australia.

In his column on 20 January Nigel Farage states that he thinks “the floods were caused by the weather and not by gay people, man-made climate change, or an increase in the consumption of hollandaise sauce in Bedfordshire”. It seems worrying that the leader of a political party with surging popularity has not only dismissed man-made climate change as having any influence but also lumped it together with two utter absurdities.

Mark Burrows, Weymouth

Nigel Farage has announced that women who take time off to have babies are worth less than the rest of us. Let us hope that Farage, who has declared his commitment to weeding Ukip of barmy crackpots and real extremists, in the wake of one his followers blaming bad weather on gay marriage and others of his flock demonstrating the ugliest of racist views, will now throw himself out of the party.

Christian Vassie, York

I write concerning the response by Nigel Farage to Owen Jones (20 January). He states that rail privatisation occurred as a result of an EU directive.

This is quite wrong, as I assume the directive referred to is 91/440, which merely required the separation of railway accounts relating to operation and infrastructure. The Conservative government of the time used this as a model for the privatisation of British Rail, but such privatisation was not required by the EU.

If privatisation of railways was required by the EU, why have other countries not privatised their railways?

Chris Hall, Derby

I cannot allow Nigel Farage’s claims to go unchallenged (20 January). I have not gone. I remain a member of UKIP, I spend Sunday mornings on candidate training for the 2015 elections, I continue to put financial resources into the Yorkshire region, and I have persuaded scores of my personal friends who are in regional executive positions within UKIP to remain at their posts regardless of the poor quality of national leadership. The cause is more important than anything else.

I resigned the whip permanently in despair. My first resignation was in February 2013, which I withdrew under pressure from the Yorkshire membership.

All this Mr Farage would know if he ever left the Home Counties or allowed the North of England to be represented on the governing body.

Godfrey Bloom MEP, Wressle, East Riding of Yorkshire

Refugee crisis on Syria’s borders

With my own country of Lebanon on a knife-edge as a side-effect of the war in Syria, I agree with you that “it is always better to be talking than not, however far away a solution may be” (editorial, 22 January).

Agencies like mine are at breaking point dealing with the refugee crisis on our border, despite the generous support of our British colleagues at Cafod. If all Geneva achieves is a recognition by all sides of their obligations to allow safe passage of humanitarian aid, that will be huge progress. We can only pray for more than that.

Father Simon Faddoul, President, Caritas Lebanon, Beirut

Our NHS is in  good health

I’m tired of all the NHS-bashing that’s going on (“NHS staff morale falls to new low ”, 22 January).

I live in Northumberland, and it is, I believe, one of the top five NHS trusts. We are extremely fortunate to live here. Our GPs are caring and hard-working, our hospitals are wonderful, clean, efficient, with competent, caring, cheerful nurses, doctors and surgeons. My husband and I are pensioners, and we are very well taken care of by our GPs at the Haltwhistle Medical Practice.

If the rest of the country came up to the standards we experience there would be none of this constant carping at the NHS.

Vivienne Rendall, Melkridge, Northumberland

Tell me if I’m still alive

Chris Maume tells of people whose obituaries were published when they were alive (“Living dead”, 21 January). In old age the actor A E Matthews used on waking to read the day’s obituaries. If he wasn’t there he’d roll over and go to sleep again.

Robert Davies, London SE3

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