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Friday 9 October 2009
Letters: Richard Dannatt joins Tories
Should we worry about this forthright general?
Lord Foulkes has made serious, if unsubstantiated, allegations about Richard Dannatt's possible collusion with the Tories. One cannot but wonder if, for once, he has a point, or be other than dismayed by the increasing political interventions and motivation displayed by senior members of the Army.
What has been one of our greatest safeguards, the tacit apolitical nature of our armed forces regardless of the clear political paranoia of our secret services, now seems to be seriously at risk. Can we no longer dismiss as totally laughable the risks of a right-wing government and an army which no longer hides its intrinsic political sympathies? Is General Dannatt to be admired for his forthrightness, or is he the harbinger of a more worrying political-army relationship?
"Conservative transparency," says George Osborne. "What transparency?" say I, after the announcement that General Dannatt is to join the Conservative team.
All this week General Dannatt has been criticising the Government from his platform as an "informed, but objective outsider". We now know that he has been a covert supporter of the Conservative opposition. Is George really trying to make us believe that the general only agreed to become a Conservative on Wednesday morning, after he had been paraded on all TV and media channels as an apolitical expert.
We need to know when the general was approached by the Conservatives, or when he first let it be known that he was prepared to join the political fray. I worry about all the other issues the Conservatives are keeping under wraps before the general election.
All together with the Tories
Cameron's cabinet is becoming an embarrassing joke.
First there was this ridiculous notion that the UK's economy should be run the same way as a household budget. Companies aren't even run this way; they usually have short, medium and long-term financial plans and borrow thousands from financial institutions.
Now we have the Tories' latest lie, that we're all in it together. If, through some unfortunate quirk of fate, we had the misfortune to get a Tory government that slashed services, this would affect the old, poor and the vulnerable most. It wouldn't affect the rich Tory supporters.
East Halton, Lincolnshire
How can George Osborne have the sauce to say that we are all in it together? How can a man worth an estimated £4.3m empathise with a £20,000 per year public service worker? Could the "we" refer to the estimated 17 millionaires who might form a Tory cabinet?
Being debt-free taxpayers for the last 45 years, who never benefited from bankers' eye-watering bonuses or MPs' dubious expenses, why do my wife and I have to be in on the "all in it together" part of repaying for their incompetence?
Wakefield, West Yorkshire
While I have heard much to encourage me from the Convervative Party conference this week, Chris Grayling's suggestion that a hike in alcohol taxes is aimed at binge-drinking 14-year-olds is ludicrous.
Alcohol taxes are aimed at people who are 18 and over, not 14-year-olds, who should not be buying alcohol at any price. If he wishes to tax 14-year-olds buying alcohol, then I suggest he lowers the drinking age to 14. Why should I have to pay extra for my drink because of a government failure to enforce the age restriction?
Anyone tempted by "compassionate Conservatism" needs to look very closely at the "home protection scheme" unveiled by Andrew Lansley. He claims that his proposals will allow people to benefit from residential care without having to sell their homes.
There's just one catch. To participate in the scheme, couples will need to pay £16,000 up-front at the age of 65. This will put the Tory plans beyond the reach of those on middle and modest incomes.
As an academic economist, it also strikes me that Lansley's sums don't add up. He claims that his scheme would be commercially viable, and even surplus-generating. But if that's so, why hasn't it been offered by commercial insurers already?
Another flaw in Lansley's plans is his assumption that a representative sample of people will opt into his scheme. However, low-risk categories of people, who are unlikely to claim, tend not to purchase insurance. This effect, which can undermine the viability of voluntary insurance schemes, has been ignored in the Tory plans.
The contrast with Labour's plans for elderly care, announced by Gordon Brown last week, is stark. Where Labour wants people to be able to receive care in their own homes, the Tory plans apply only to residential care. Where Labour's plan will cover everyone regardless of ability to pay, the Tory plans are aimed at a wealthy minority.
Dr Ben Ferrett
Department of Economics
Defeating the BNP in debate
It is wrong of Tim Terry to equate the situation in Rwanda and Uganda with that in Britain (letter, 5 October). Rwanda experienced a fall in income from its main export, coffee, and a disastrous economic situation before the genocide. In Britain, in spite of the serious recession, the economic situation is not at all comparable.
The fact is that significant numbers of British voters have elected BNP candidates to the European Parliament. There is no point in pretending that the BNP doesn't exist as a serious political force. Refusing to allow the BNP to appear on Question Time would give them a credibililty normally reserved for dissidents under a dictatorship.
The only way to defeat this party is by allowing them to make their arguments, and then answering those arguments clearly and directly in a forum of public debate.
Tim Terry's letter decrying Jack Straw's decision to appear on BBC Question Time with Nick Griffin of the BNP is typical of the media's attitude towards a political party that over a million people voted for in local and European elections.
Mr Terry goes on to compare Britain with Northern Ireland and its sectarian troubles. People like Mr Terry miss the point that this country is importing sectarianism at an ever-increasing rate, and only if the Muslim community, in particular, decides that when in Rome they should do as the Romans do will the country stand a chance of some sort of congenial co-existence. Then perhaps there would be no need for the BNP.
The one thing you can be certain of is that the BBC will make sure that the audience will be made up of self-righteous, liberal multi-culturists.
Norton Canes, Staffordshire
Postal strikes lose business
I am sad to see that Amazon is stopping its contract with the Royal Mail. As a regular customer of Amazon I am now thinking of stopping using it for this reason.
I ordered a book recently and it was dispatched by a private company. They attempted to deliver during the week, but no one was at home. Now I have an option to either rearrange delivery for a different working day (but not Saturday) or go and pick it up myself in their distribution centre miles away from my home. Neither of these options is as good as the Royal Mail's, because the public company delivers on Saturdays and their distribution centre is within a 20-minute walk.
It is a pity that constant strikes at the Royal Mail are not only obstructing people's lives but also losing it business.
Hero of Europe, villain of Iraq
How astonishing that the EU's so-called democratic deficit has failed to produce a frontrunner for President who fits the description of either "faceless" or "bureaucrat".
What do the Eurosceptics or the David Camerons think they are going to be able to teach the man most likely to be the new EU President about democracy? Tony Blair won three general elections, with majorities which would have made any of their eyes water. He has spent a decade at the forefront of global politics, so we all know who Blair is and what he stands for, which is more than can be said about any of those whingeing for a referendum.
While the Brussels mechanism may appear convoluted, it does appear set to deliver Europe's most popular politician of the last 30 years, notwithstanding his being from the one major country outside of the single currency. While the Tories continue their cavorting with Latvia's Fatherland and Freedom Party, the rest of us will proudly prepare to rejoice at the possible elevation, to the Presidency of 470 million people, of a British national hero.
It would surely be the gravest affront to all who have lost and continue to lose their lives in Iraq as the result of an illegal, immoral and foolish war if its architect were to become President of Europe. Better any candidate than Mr Blair.
Sir Geoffrey Chandler
Will the proposed new European Union President have the power to take us to war? If so, I feel that those suggesting Tony Blair for the post are in error. The man the EU clearly needs is George W Bush.
Fundamentals of atheism
Having thoroughly enjoyed Paul Taylor's review of Trevor Nunn's Inherit the Wind (5 October), I was dismayed that he resorted to the fashionable stereotype of "fundamentalist atheist" to describe those tirelessly opposed to creationism.
I, like A C Grayling and a good many others, would like to ask this: what would a non-fundamentalist atheist believe? In only a part of the deity, perhaps a foot or an arm? Or that God only exists at Christmas, Easter and just prior to the lottery numbers being called? Atheists fundamentally represent the open mind, religious people the closed – and the best of luck to them.
John Walsh asks men who want to dress like women, "Do you want to look so incredibly silly?" ("Real men don't skirt the issue", 7 October). In doing so he unconsciously speaks volumes about how far women have to go before they are taken seriously. Would he put the same question, I wonder, to women who want to dress like men?
I wasn't surprised by the photograph of an albatross following an orca, presumably in search of food (7 October), although it was a fantastic picture. When I was a merchant navy catering rating in the 1960s it was acceptable to dump our rubbish at sea, provided we were well clear of the coast. It was always a fascinating sight when crossing the Tasman Sea or the Great Australian Bight to watch albatross following the ship, sometimes for days on end, waiting for scraps that they knew would be thrown overboard. It seems that albatross will form a relationship with anything if there is food involved.
Terence Roy Smith
Do me a favour
I wonder if anyone shares my irritation at the now widespread use, mostly by female shop or telesales assistants, of the patronising appendage "for me" after every request, as in "Can you put your pin number in for me." The implication is that I am reluctant, or will have great difficulty, but could I do it as a special favour for her? Echoes of toilet training?
Middle East hatreds
Dr Brown ("How Palestinians have come to doubt the Holocaust," 7 October) must know, as her "senior Palestinian nurse" must know, that anti-Semitism has become almost an article of faith, instilled from childhood. Such antipathy stems from supposed divine revelations and features in the Koran, Sunnah and Hadiths. Until or unless such condemnations are disavowed by Muslims, the problem remains and Israelis will be justified in distrusting their neighbours' actions and motives.
Models of misery
Can anyone explain why the models on the fashion pages always look so utterly miserable? They look like very depressed stick insects. And who are the people who will actually wear these clothes? At this stage I have to confess that I am 78 years old and of "ample proportions", but I do know how to smile, and actually laugh at myself at times.
Goathland, North Yorkshire
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