Letters: Strategic Defence Review

The costs of British power
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The Independent Online

A realistic assessment of our defence requirements and future force structure is long overdue. With a growing population and an essential reliance upon imported food, fuel and many other vital commodities, the issue of sea lane security is of great importance, as also is the security of many of our overseas supplying nations.

As a maritime country with global strategic interests the need for a well-equipped carrier force is undeniable and the only practical way of ensuring that our global security requirements can be met.

The cost of renewing Trident is unwarranted, based as it is on Cold War strategies. You knew who your enemy was, where he lived and how best to hurt him. Today, a nuclear weapon is more likely to arrive in a shipping container than on the end of a missile.

Submarine-launched cruise missile systems would provide cheaper, more adaptable alternatives, able to carry both nuclear and conventional warheads.

Flexibility, co-operation and cost sharing in order to afford and maximise the benefits of new technology will be paramount, as will be early retirement for many of our top brass, accompanied by substantial numbers of our heavy and increasingly vulnerable tanks.

Recent conflicts have exposed some serious weaknesses in our armed forces and they cannot all be laid at the feet of politicians or the alarmingly large number of staff at the MoD procurement section. We must bury the past and not our front-line service personnel.

Peter C Morgan

Crewe, Cheshire

Liam Fox has attempted to cajole, undermine and intimidate the Strategic Defence Review team by threat.

If there is a genuine defence to be made for ludicrously expensive pet projects such as the Army's Cold War era main battle tanks; the RAF's dog-fighting aircraft or the Navy's white elephant carriers and Trident submarines, then let them make their reasoned case to the Defence Review and live with the consequences.

Liam Fox's letter, his behaviour since it was disclosed and the hunt for the source of the leak are nothing short of shameful.

Peter Coghlan

Broadstone, Dorset

Liam Fox's leaked comments on the "disastrous" consequences of cuts to the military are equally applicable to the proposed massive cuts to the civil public sector. If it makes no sense to reduce spending on the armed forces in the midst of war, it makes even less sense to axe public services at a time of economic uncertainty.

Cuts to our vital public services threaten civic unrest and social decay, as great a threat to our national security as any enemy lurking in mountains far beyond our shores. Fox has pulled one card from the pack. The tottering house of cards that is the Coalition's spending review must surely fall.

Anthony Rodriguez

Staines, Middlesex

The letter from assorted Admirals and friends in defence of the Navy's aircraft carriers (29 September) exposes the nonsense put about by the military-industrial complex.

These people say we will be able to project UK power worldwide. What UK power would we or should we wish to project? Do they seriously imagine we can attack where we wish without permission from the Pentagon? We cannot afford the complement of US aircraft, let alone all the associated weaponry.

The debacle in the middle east is one consequence of clinging to the notion that the UK has an international policing right. Because of that fantasy we end up with Blair as the lickspittle to Bush. Do the Scandinavians, the Low Countries, the Spaniards try to cling on to long-departed delusions of world power and authority? By what right do these naval personnel presume to pronounce upon what is a political choice, where the choice long since evaporated?

Professor Tim Biscoe


After the bloody horror of the Iraq invasion and with the continuing fiasco of Afghanistan, it is depressing to see that a bunch of naval top brass still wants to be able to "project UK power worldwide" and "attack targets many hundreds of miles away", just like the Americans.

Have those in power and authority learnt nothing from recent military arrogance and disaster? Isn't it time to ask the British public whether they want to continue our history of sabre-rattling and warmongering or learn from some of our European neighbours, lower our profile, make less noise and invest such resources as we have in education, healthcare and decent pensions?

Julie Harrison


The no doubt eminent and experienced senior naval personnel who signed the letter about aircraft carriers need to come down into the real world.

They think that we need to have these carriers in order to "project UK power worldwide". What power does a piddling little island just off the west coast of Europe, up to its eyeballs in debt, have in 2010?

We no longer have an empire. We have not been a great power for at least half a century. We need to shed these delusions of grandeur.

J W Wright

Calne, Wiltshire

Sports kit from sweatshops

It comes as no surprise that the leading manufacturers Nike, Puma and Adidas continue to exploit workers producing their clothes and trainers ("Blood, sweat and tears: the truth about how your sportswear is made", 1 October). Despite their rhetoric, sportswear companies are denying workers a living wage and failing to support trade unions that could provide a powerful voice for workers' concerns.

However, the suggestion in your leading article ("The gruesome reality") that these firms must divert some of their vast financial muscle into bringing real improvements to the misery of the sweatshops will fall on stony ground. Asking companies to police their own behaviour has proved a failure. It is only through government regulation that any campaign against sweatshops can succeed. This is why War on Want is pressing the British government to establish a human rights commission which will stop UK firms abusing overseas workers.

Simon McRae

War On Want, London N1

Bursaries for state pupils

David Levin's plan to open independent sixth forms to state pupils could be an exciting opportunity for social mobility ("Independent schools to open their sixth forms to state pupils", 24 September). However, schools must make sure their bursary programmes are carefully targeted.

At Rugby School, we work in partnership with educational charities to reach out to boys and girls from some of the country's most deprived communities, where under-achievement is rife. We do not support these pupils because they are the brightest or the most talented, but because they stand to gain the most from a boarding school education.

If bursary schemes are to transform lives, they must do more than just help out with school fees.

Patrick Derham

Head Master, Rugby School

Sad sex without the romance

Poor Julie Burchill (29 September) and her dried-prune attitude to the act of loving. Romance does not figure in her flat-packed and sugar-free world of sex and love.

Even animals put on a fine display of pre-coital wooing, either in a Technicolored show of feathers or a seductive warble. But according to the Burchill view of sex and romance, flowers, not to mention foreplay, are a time-wasting digression. Give a nod and a wink and you can make the earth move in 10 minutes flat, and maybe watch Strictly Come Dancing while you're at it.

The fact that some of the world's greatest literature, art, music and sculpture were all created on the theme of love, Julie Burchill would dismiss as an irrelevance.

Donald Zec

London W14

Fly-away prices

How much I agree with David Lister's comments on "obscenely high prices" at the O2 arena (29 September). Earlier this year when we wanted to see a well-known performer on a world tour, we actually found it cheaper to fly to Hamburg and see the same act there. The saving also paid for one of two nights' accommodation in a decent hotel. We have done this on more than one occasion and found it a good way to throw in a city break at little extra cost.

Peter Glover

Rayleigh, Essex

Radio nights

Mary Dejevsky's article (1 October) omitted to mention the great service which the BBC World Service renders to the nation's insomniacs. In those cruel small hours when the airwaves are largely occupied by sad and lonely phone-in participants, and banal pop music, the World Service provides first-rate commentary on global affairs, literary discussion, science programmes – just about everything to occupy the wakeful hours. Long may it prosper.

Doraine Potts

Woodmancote, Cheltenham

US aid

Jim Wright (letter, 30 September) asks if the special relationship with the US has brought us any benefits? I'd start the list with the freedom to write his letter to a newspaper called The Independent.

R W McMillan

Stoke on Trent

Perspectives on party democracy

No more Labour emperors

Tony Cantlay (letter, 30 September) asks: "If they [the Labour government] were so wrong so often – and God knows we told them at the time – why did they do it? Why did their MPs, and the rest of the party, support them?"

A lot didn't, but the right to exert influence over party policy has been incrementally stolen from members, to the point where they are little more than mere cyphers, rendering them unimportant to the leadership. Recognising their own growing irrelevance in the party, thousands of good people gave up and resigned, thus moving the party's centre of gravity to the right.

The arch-destroyer of party democracy was of course Tony Blair. Even on Iraq he excluded his Cabinet members from decision-making. Blair had worked assiduously to concentrate power in No 10, and with almost half of Labour MPs in government positions within his gift, under the extensive power of patronage which goes with being PM, he was emboldened to rule as an emperor.

Ed Miliband has made a good start, and I know this may sound revolutionary, but as leader he must trust and like his party.

He should also bring an end to the Tory-style jamboree that the annual conference has become, re-establish conference as a debating and policy-making forum and halt the practice of referring constituency resolutions to the National Executive Committee as a means of kicking radicalism into the long grass.

To become a truly democratic party, the power of the Labour leader has to be recognised by Ed himself as another area for necessary change: no more emperors driven by "honest belief".

Ed was my choice out of the five available candidates, and I hope he will consult with such groups as Save the Labour Party and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy in taking steps to restore pride in being a Labour member – an imperative if we are to elect a Labour government at the next election. It may not be too far away.

Eddie Dougall

Walsham le Willows, Suffolk

Just a game

It is depressing that one of your readers (letter, 28 September), criticising the announcement on a Saturday afternoon of the new Labour leader, should equate "exactly what real people care about" with football.

Dennis Leachman