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Saturday 31 March 2012
Letters: Spooked into a national fuel panic
What is happening to our country? All it takes to create mayhem is the threat of a fuel distribution strike, and you have panic buying, empty fuel stations, brawling at forecourts and harassment of fuel station staff. The strike hasn't even started!
We look to HM Government for cool-headed leadership. What we get are clowns suggesting that we fill up our jerry cans with petrol and keep them in our garages. One would have thought that the potential for self-immolation by fuel hoarders would be a high price even for the strike-busting instincts of our lords and masters.
As for the general public falling for the scare tactics of the Government and acting like greedy children with sweets, are they the descendants of people who underwent real hardship with dignity and phlegm during the Blitz?
St Erth, Cornwall
The fuel-buying frenzy will not be "raking in an extra £32m in excise duty" for the Treasury as your headline (30 March) states. Once we have all filled our tanks we will not be using any more fuel that before. In fact the threat of disruption to supplies and the increasing price of fuel are likely to lead to a more considered use of our cars, with the long-term result of an overall reduction in the revenue from fuel excise duty.
All that is happening is that the Treasury is receiving our excise duty contribution a bit sooner that it would have. However, with their usual smoke-and-mirrors approach to any crisis, I am sure that the Government will take heart from your headline and shortly be announcing how the "extra" income will be spent to everyone's advantage.
Lower Quinton, Warwickshire
Following various embarrassing revelations – cash-for-access, VAT on pasties and so forth – the Government gives hasty advice about fuel shortages which are, so far, entirely of its own creation. Let's hope the Conservatives are not further embarrassed by new disclosures, or we may end up at war with someone.
The forthcoming Jubilee, the imminent Olympics, the generally dire economic situation, the continuing threat of terrorism, the potential for social unrest at home (and probably much more) make one wish we had a government that knew when, and when not, to cry wolf.
Gordon Brown is owed an apology. The shambolic state of the Coalition makes the "clunking fist", even at his lowest ebb, look positively Churchillian.
How Galloway won Muslim votes from Labour
Anyone who ever witnessed, as I did, George Galloway addressing an anti-war meeting in a northern town, when the audience was predominantly Muslim, will know exactly why he won the Bradford by-election.
On that occasion many years ago the atmosphere was electric as he entered the room. His greeting, "Salaam alaikum" drew much vocal appreciation and he was clapped and cheered repeatedly.
The only other time I witnessed such a reception from the Muslim community was for Robin Cook when he came to a Labour election meeting after he had resigned from the Cabinet at the time of the Iraq war. What a tragedy his death was for the Labour Party and Muslims alike.
Bolton, Greater Manchester
At last, light at the end of the long, dark and twisty tunnel of coalition government. The success of the Respect Party shows it is possible to elect clear-message candidates, and gives hope that we can reclaim our NHS by voting for doctors at the general election.
The Sunday shopping myth
Your leader in favour of unrestricted Sunday shopping (20 March) made my heart bleed for all those poor people who work so hard every day that Sunday is the only day they have to go shopping. This seems to me to be a perpetuation of the myth put about by the large chains intent on brainwashing people into believing that shopping is an essential leisure activity.
Look across the Channel, and there is not one country where shopping hours are as long or as varied as they are in Britain. In France, most shops close early on Saturdays, and do not open again until Tuesday morning. They also tend to take two hours off every day for lunch. In Norway, it's rare to find shops open later than 4.30pm, even on weekdays.
The large village where I live has a good selection of small shops, and none of them has any wish to open seven days a week, except during the holiday season. The village also has two small supermarkets, both of which are open until 10pm, six days a week, and for the permitted six hours on a Sunday. That seems to be enough for the 8,000 or so people who live round here.
We have lost a sense of balance in this country. I have a lot of sympathy with the Jewish tradition of the Sabbath. It ensures that everyone has at least one day a week free from the pressures of work and commerce, and enables them to concentrate on more important and pleasurable things such as a social life and relaxation.
West Wittering, West Sussex
Funding the party of the rich
Dominic Lawson worries about value for money ("Do we really want to give politicians more money to waste?", 27 March). He assures us, for example, that wealthy donors to the Tories seldom receive the hand-made policies or peerages they might be seeking.
But, to be fair, they often achieve their more basic objective: the election of a government which instinctively favours the richest 1 per cent. In fat-cat-speak, that's still a jolly good ROI.
In 2010, for instance, the Tories scraped into power, having spent twice as much as Labour on their campaign. The genuine reform of party political funding which Dominic Lawson opposes would deprive the Tories of a massively unfair, anti-democratic advantage. For many voters, however, it sounds like 50p very well spent.
By asking why "many voters no longer have confidence in the politicians elected to represent us", Dave Warbis (letter, 27 March) makes a fundamental error. As the events of the past few days confirm, our politicians do not represent "us" at all, but rather big business and those who can afford to lobby them.
No amnesty for rights violators
I agree with Daniel Howden (Opinion, 29 March) that those with an interest in African affairs ought to get over their annoyance at the Kony2012 video and the renewed interest in capturing Joseph Kony which it has sparked.
The fact that Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army have become "relatively unimportant" is an irrelevance. The whole point of institutions such as the International Criminal Court, which has indicted Kony, is to demonstrate that international law has a long arm and is not forgetful.
In many other cases the international community and NGOs accept the importance of pursuing individuals for human rights violations committed years, and sometimes decades, ago. It is important not only for justice to be done but also for it to be seen to be done in the eyes of other potential tyrants and human rights abusers.
Quite why the people of Africa's Great Lakes deserve any less than other victims of human rights abusers has been beyond me since the start of this affair.
The case for screening
Margaret McCartney appears sceptical about the need for bowel-cancer screening, and implies that the more people know about it, the less likely they are to take up the offer of screening ("Why I'm saying no to a smear", 20 March).
Bowel screening saves lives through early diagnosis, in some cases before the cancer has even developed. Since 2006 over 7,000 bowel cancers have been diagnosed as a result of screening, and over 40,000 polyps have been removed, around 9,000 of those at high risk of developing into cancer.
Currently only around half of those offered bowel screening take part. If more knew about the real benefits of early diagnosis – which offers over 90 per cent five-year survival at stage 1 compared with less than 7 per cent survival to five years at stage 4 – then more might take up the chance to be screened.
Beating Bowel Cancer
Drunk or sober, it's still racism
There is beginning to be sympathy for Liam Stacey, the young man jailed for racist tweeting. It has been suggested that a mitigating factor was that he was drunk.
Anyone with knowledge of alcohol-induced offending knows that alcohol does not make you do things foreign to your nature but reduces inhibitions. Someone prone to violence becomes violent; someone who is not will get silly but not violent.
The details of Stacey's tweets suggest he is a serious racist. He is not as dangerous as a sober calculating racist, but he should know that tweets soon become public property and can stir up racism in others.
The odd idea of taxing the rich
So the problem with the 50p tax was that it didn't bring in enough money, and the reason for this was tax avoidance by the rich – and the solution to this problem was not (as an ordinary taxpayer might imagine) to crack down on tax avoidance by the rich, but to reward the rich by dropping the tax.
Of course we can't crack down on tax avoidance by the rich because this would "send a negative message about the UK". Send a negative message to whom? Why, to the rich who want to avoid paying tax, of course!
Herne Bay, Kent
In the article entitled "Scandal spreads to Murdoch TV empire" (27 March) you allege that while I was chief executive of Sky Italia I "ripped up" a multi-year contract with Nagra France. In fact, Sky Italia and Nagra mutually agreed to terminate the contract with effect from 1 March 2006. Therefore, it can in no way be said that the contract was "ripped up". I find it disappointing that The Independent chose to use such emotive language and inaccurate reporting.
Chief Executive officer, News International, London E98
Pasties for Tories
Such a successful company as Greggs are missing a trick and should be thinking about catering for the class of customers who live in the parallel universe that Gideon and Boris inhabit. May I suggest a fondue à porter (with complimentary tea light) and tartiflette 2 go?
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