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Sunday 23 December 2012
Letters: Settle this Plebgate stand-off now
It is no one's interest (bar politicians and the Police Federation) for our governing political party to be swinging hatchets with the Metropolitan Police. The public need to have faith that police officers remain politically impartial and do not lie, and that politicians abide by the laws they create.
The "Plebgate" affair, which (in policing terms) amounts to little more than a routine police encounter with an angry and frustrated member of the public, has spiralled out of proportion, and is diverting too much political effort and attention away from the more pressing issues affecting our nation.
We should not have to accept senior government politicians swearing at police, any more than they should accept any hint of serving police officers undermining or bullying politicians.
The stand-off that has now developed undermines the sacrosanct divide between politics and criminal justice, and goes well beyond what can be dealt with by "trial by proxy" in the press.
It is time for the Director of Public Prosecutions to draw a line under the affair, by charging Mr Mitchell, based on what evidence is available, and co-charging any officer who it is believed may have lied in the course of their duty. The whole thing should then be rolled up into a single trial, and the court can decide who lied and who has committed an offence.
One of the most important legacies bequeathed to the nation by our former premier, John Major, was his Citizens' Charter in which he said: "There must no longer be any hiding place for sloppy standards, lame excuses and attitudes that patronise the public."
It is a great pity that so many people in authority have failed to take adequate notice of these admirable words. From Hillsborough to Plebgate, so many establishment figures have continued to confidently patronise the public on the apparent assumption that they will get away with it.
It will be a good integrity test for the Home Affairs Select Committee in the new year when they question the Metropolitan Police Commissioner about integrity and leadership throughout the force in the light of the way the MP Andrew Mitchell's case was handled.
And if Keith Vaz, chairman of the Select Committee, does his job properly he should not confine the investigation to Plebgate but also take the opportunity to question the Commissioner about a few other skeletons in Scotland Yard's cupboard.
This time, Howard Jacobson has hit the nail on the ****ing head (22 December); and the fact that David Cameron, our Prime Minister, was too timid to take up the discrepancies between the police log and the CCTV footage speaks volumes; he was afraid, apparently, of upsetting his praetorian guard.
I recently heard a participant in a radio discussion tell another participant: "There's no need to be rude", when he was merely being forthright. We need to distinguish between rudeness and threatening behaviour.
NRA would turn schools into battlefields
Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the National Rifle Association, is on to something with his proposal that armed guards be stationed in every school in America. But surely he doesn't go far enough?
Children's security could be further enhanced by high, razor-wire fences around the schools' perimeters, with the guards overseeing the area from watchtowers. Further, all school buses could be redesigned along the lines of armoured personnel carriers, and school uniforms replaced with military flak jackets, helmets and bullet-proof visors.
The sports and physical exercise parts of the curriculum could be expanded to what might be termed "armed intruder response activities", with children engaged in target practice at moving boards on which are drawn menacing, heavily armed figures in black.
After all these measures are in place, only then perhaps would the NRA leadership be confident that American children are as protected as possible, and the rest of us would be even more certain that there truly is a mental health crisis in America.
The NRA is, hopefully, now shooting itself in its booted foot with its deranged proposals for armed guards at all US schools and its deflection of blame for these outrages away from prolific gun ownership towards violence in games and films.
In real life, the first to get shot by "the bad guy with the gun" is "the good guy with the gun" before he can react. The "good guy" cannot take a safe shot because he's surrounded by terrified kids, perhaps used as shields, and he knows the meaning of the words "miss" and "ricochet".
NRA? No Rational Argument.
The true colours of the National Rifle Association were unfurled by its chief executive, whose lack of realism and empathy was almost a thing of wonder.
Wayne LaPierre blamed everything in US life for this latest slaughter, except the mass ownership of assault weapons, and suggested returning schools to the Wild West. New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg called his idiotic suggestion of arming teachers, "a shameful evasion of the crisis facing our country". But President Obama faces the NRA's four million gun-toting primitives, so don't go holding your breath.
Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Fife
With just under 100,000 schools, how would NRA guards be selected, screened and trained? A selection failure rate of just 0.00001 per cent would be a disaster, an armed killer waiting to commit another murderous act.
Arundel, West Sussex
Panic in the mince pie markets
It seems to me that some are more squeezed than others. I would appreciate it if somebody would have the courage to publish the true level of inflation. I cannot reconcile the official rate and what appears to be happening in my life and in the life of many others.
My private medical insurance has recently increased by some 12 per cent. My utility bills are about to increase by some 10 per cent. Cost of travel is about to increase well above the rate of inflation. Every thing else seems to be going up in price faster than I can look. The little money I have in the bank loses value as the banks offer a derisory rate of interest.
I felt a twinge of Christmas spirit yesterday, and to cheer me up, in an unguarded moment I went into my local bakery to buy one mince pie. Last it year it cost £1, so I offered the girl behind the counter a pound coin. She politely informed me that the cost is now £1.40. I felt embarrassed at my foolishness.
Ukip hails a rosy vision of the past
Are floating voters really switching their support directly from the Lib Dems to Ukip, as the results of local elections and opinion polls seem to suggest?
This seems surprising, given the distance separating these two parties in what they stand for.
A likely explanation is that many voters know little of Ukip's policies and principles, other than that they are opposed to our EU membership. But readers of the Ukip manifesto document Restoring Britishness will be left in no doubt how conservative the party really is, how infused with right-wing paranoia.
For example, the words "Marxist" and "the liberal elite" occur with remarkable frequency; most of society's ills can apparently be ascribed, at bottom, to these insidious influences.
The document leaves you with the overriding impression that Ukip's vision of the future lies mainly in a retreat into a rosy version of the past. They seem to yearn for the glory days before mass immigration; when tweed jacket and grey flannel trousers were standard for the British male; when rail travellers journeyed in the "grace and style" of Pullman trains; and when history teaching put greater emphasis on the achievements of the British Empire.
And of course, we want to return to those happy days before we joined the Common Market.
Jailed for an artistic act
We are shocked by the severity of the court sentence against Wlodzimierz Umaniec: condemning him to two years in jail is far too harsh. It seems that the social and artistic meanings of his act have not been taken into account.
Mr Umaniec, 26, is an artist who studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan, Poland. As an immigrant to Britain living in a precarious situation, he co-founded a movement which he calls "yellowism"; the unfortunate gesture at Tate Modern was meant to be a part of his artistic activity.
We deplore this ruining of a young human life in response to an act of iconoclasm. The subjectivity of the young artist, a first-time offender, should not be condemned so cruelly. The sentence against Mr Umaniec reminds us of the two-year imprisonment of Pussy Riot in Russia.
Dr Tomasz Kitlinski
Research Fellow, University of Brighton
Information services manager, University of Brighton
Dr Pawel Leszkowicz
Marie Curie Fellow, University of Sussex
A plot against the Civil Service
Mary Dejevsky is quick to suggest a government conspiracy against the middle classes in the administration of taxes ("Britain's middle class is not just squeezed but deceived", 20 December). But she is painfully slow in not noticing the likely cause.
The Civil Service has been cut dramatically by a government not willing to employ logic in its money-saving measures. Obviously, if cuts are made without regard for maintaining efficiency, services will suffer. Dejevsky has missed an opportunity to stand up for public servants who have become a target for victimisation.
Rather than living at the beginning or end of history, we exist in interesting times somewhere in the middle. It would seem that the Mayans got it wrong and Yeats got it right when he wrote "A man awaits his end / Dreading and hoping all; / Many times he died, / Many times rose again."
Never again will I organise the rest of my life on the basis of the Mayan Long Count Calendar.
Welfare cuts so large, even IDS is worried at the 'sheer scale' of them
Nicky Morgan branded a hypocrite after backing Irish gay marriage referendum having voted against it in England and Wales
Labour drops its opposition to Tory EU referendum plans
Harman Singh gets a big surprise as he is thanked for cradling an injured 6-year-old's head with his turban
Nicola Sturgeon vows to block Tories on austerity and repeal of Human Rights Act
Tony Abbott rejects calls for referendum on gay marriage after Ireland's historic vote
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