Letters: Sinking into despair over cuts

These letters are published in the print edition of The Independent, 29 June, 2013

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Yet again the failed policies of the past three years are to be reinforced and the blame game played by this most miserable of governments, continued beyond the date of the next election. Where is the fairness?  Already Labour (or is it New Labour or One Nation Labour) has committed itself to maintaining these cuts. Where is the opposition or any real alternative strategy?

As a lifelong Labour supporter, resident in Scotland, I find myself sinking into a despair I have never experienced before. I find myself – by instinct a believer in the United Kingdom – for the first time in my life considering seriously the prospect of a separate Scotland. The idea of living in a country which would never see a Conservative government, or one supported by their pathetic Lib Dem partners, is becoming increasingly attractive, as it must be to the thousands of Labour supporters living here.   

Does this government’s strategy include a subliminal message that they want Scotland to vote for independence in the hope of securing a Tory hegemony in England?

Jim White, Alloa, Clackmannanshire

It seems to me that all the discussion about austerity measures to bring down the deficit has been aimed at hitting one group or another; on the one hand welfare claimants, the unemployed, pensioners, and on the other, the wealthy. It’s particularly disappointing to see Labour joining the bandwagon.

Some of the rhetoric used (particularly on the government side) makes it look suspiciously like an attempt to divide and rule.

As well as dividing society, many of the options being considered are likely to increase administration costs by making the benefits system, pension arrangements or taxation more complex.

Surely it’s time one party or another was brave enough to talk about the possibility of an increase in income tax. The system exists, and it is fair, taking more from those on high incomes, less from those on modest incomes and none from those who are worst off. So surely now when “we are all in it together” and “hard choices have to be made” is the time to at least consider increasing it.

We are all going to be suffering from the effects of substantially reduced services one way or another, the poor most of all. At least this would make our contribution to resolving the problem much clearer.

Derek Martin, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced that social security claimants will be required to attend compulsory English classes if they are not fluent in the language.

It will be interesting to see just how seriously the heads of our devolved governments take the existing statutory protection of the UK’s other native languages (Gaelic in Scotland, Welsh in Wales and Irish and Ulster Scots in Northern Ireland) by demanding that classes in these languages be offered as an alternative.

If not, will monoglot speakers of these tongues also be forced to learn English, or is this new legislation aimed solely at Johnny Foreigner?

John Eoin Douglas, Edinburgh

Public mood shifts on press regulation

Chris Blackhurst (28 June) was right to suggest Lord Justice Leveson “should be put in the select committee dock” but wrong in warning that it must happen “before time runs out”.

If anything, Leveson’s  acceptance of the overly polite invitation from the Culture Select Committee is a very good reason for the whole press regulation issue to be put on ice until after both Leveson’s parliamentary appearance and the outcome of the looming phone-hacking and bribery criminal trials.

Chris Blackhurst takes the pessimistic view that, whatever the results, evidence during the court cases will strengthen the arm of Hacked Off and politicians eager to impose statutory regulation. But it’s also possible to put the more optimistic case that the trials focus on allegations against  a minority of staff on two newspapers and the press as a whole is not in the dock.

Meanwhile Brian Leveson’s belated questioning by the select committee can focus on The Independent’s highly-significant exposé of the Serious Organised Crime Agency report showing that illegal phone-hacking was the standard practice of some law firms, insurance companies, high net worth individuals and, yes, celebrities.

It would be a mistake to downplay the potential of the revelations for shifting the public’s mood over statutory press regulation. As a broadcast commentator on media issues, I hear phone-in callers increasingly demanding to know why SOCA did nothing and voicing welcome appreciation of a free press in exposing NHS whistleblower gags and the smearing of the Lawrence family.

Paul Connew, St Albans, Hertfordshire

Your editorial “Other hackers need scrutiny too” (25 June) attacks Lord Justice Leveson for ignoring evidence that “most theft of private information was carried out on behalf of law firms and large corporations”, yet you have presented only the most tenuous evidence for this startling claim.

Your news report cites a single source: a “hacker” who says that “80 per cent of his client list was taken up by law firms”. This is one operator and it is not even clear whether he is referring to his general client list or just his phone-hacking activity.

And far from being “suppressed” as you suggest, evidence of widespread data abuse was uncovered by the police and the Information Commissioners Office some years ago and published in a 2006 report entitled What Price Privacy? This document is the key source for the “suppressed report” by the Serious and Organised Crime Agency that you mention. The SOCA evidence was supplied to the Leveson inquiry but there is nothing mysterious about its absence from the Leveson report, since the judge’s remit restricted him to matters relating to the press.

It is no surprise, though it is of course preposterous, that other less scrupulous papers have seized on your report to build a claim that, if others such as lawyers were engaged in phone hacking, then there were obviously no grounds for reform of press self-regulation.

Brian Cathcart, Executive Director, Hacked Off, London SW1

CQC report was published

It is incorrect to suggest that a report commissioned by CQC from Deloitte was “buried” (report, 27 June). Nor was this a report into University Hospitals Morecambe Bay. It focused on CQC’s use of its investigation powers.

The report was published on our website following a discussion at a board meeting held in public and broadcast on YouTube on 7 February. We commissioned this work as part of our strategy review, published in April. It was referenced in our recent consultation document and in our response to the Health Select Committee’s annual accountability report published on 7 January 2013.

David Behan, Chief Executive, Care Quality Commission, London EC1

Once again the establishment drags its feet in bringing its own to account. MPs who fiddled their expenses were allowed to simply pay the money back, while benefit claimants are taken to court for much smaller sums.

Now we have allegations of a cover-up in relation to deaths on a maternity ward. First the names of those allegedly involved were kept secret, and now we are told that “those involved may now face disciplinary action”. Surely, if so, it is time for charges of misconduct in public office to be considered, if the allegations are proved.

Stanley Knill, London N15

Falling stars at Wimbledon

In the analysis of the slips and falls on Wimbledon’s “wounded Wednesday”, there are a number of potential culprits which should also be considered.

Are they wearing the right footwear with the appropriate amount of grip?

We should also consider the trend towards the giraffe build, which is a feature of many of today’s top players. Whilst that gives advantages for the service game and reach, the skeleton has disadvantages when having to twist and turn to return balls which come on to them increasingly quickly with today’s rackets and balls.

Chris Bown, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

No political correctness

Trish Scott (letter, 26 June) is disappointed that The Independent mentions that Judge Constance Briscoe’s skin colour is black. Surely the “offending” word was just a fleeting adjective, perhaps of slight interest to some. Maybe a tiny minority of readers were outraged by use of the pronoun “she”. The Independent would never get published if the editors used a politically correct, treading-on-eggshells approach to their work.

Barrie Spooner, Nottingham

Good news buried

Tucked away on page 24 (28 June), was a short and disturbing report “Cyclist deaths up by 10 per cent” (to 118). But what is much more disturbing is the way in which The Independent has failed to tell the whole story. The drop in pedestrian casualties rated a brief mention but not a sausage about the most important of the 2012 road casualty statistics, the 8 per cent drop in the numbers killed to 1,754, the lowest figure since records began in 1926.

Roger Chapman, Keighley, West Yorkshire

Mutilation

There is no comparison between male circumcision and female genital mutilation, except for the very rare procedure of removing the skin covering the clitoris, as described by David Hamilton (letter, 28 June). The commonly performed mutilation of female genitalia in cultures that consider it to be important can only be compared to partial or complete penile amputation. Debate about the rights and wrongs of male circumcision requires a separate forum.

John Beck, Alresford, Hampshire

Church in Arabia

Peter Popham is wrong in writing that Qatar has the only Catholic church in the Gulf states (“The Sheikh from Sandhurst”, 26 June). Whilst Christian worship is forbidden in Saudi Arabia, all the other five Gulf Cooperation Council countries have Catholic churches – including St Mary’s in Dubai, which I have attended many times.

Alan J Percy, Wirral

GM people?

You report on “germ-line gene therapy” to eliminate inherited diseases. Why is genetic modification acceptable in people but not in rice?

Dr John Doherty, Stratford-upon-Avon

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