Letters: Surviving in a time of austerity

Share
Related Topics

It is dismaying to read the conclusions drawn from the British Social Attitudes Survey, especially Julian Baggini's comment about throwing "inconvenient values" out of the window in hard times (7 December).

When my partner's business folded two and a half years ago, and we went from two salaries to one overnight, despite our reduced finances we carried on for about a year thinking that of course we'd soon manage to sort things out. After 12 months all our savings were gone and we were having to sell things to cover outgoings. Cancelling regular contributions to charities and eschewing the free-range and fair trade foods we'd always held so important was not a ditching of inconvenient values but simply a matter of survival.

With hard work and a load of luck, he is now set up in a new business, but its fledgling state and the fragility of the economy mean our finances are little more secure.

This reality, albeit with different causes, is replicated in millions of households across the country and it is hardly surprising that the UK population is in survival mode. Millions of us are now focusing on keeping going day by day and do not have the financial wherewithall nor emotional energy to think of anything else.

Add to that a media consumed with painting doom at every turn and survival behaviour becomes entrenched for the longer term. Instead of being critical about the fact that many people's generosity is diminished as they struggle not to go under, Mr Baggini would be better off urging you and your colleagues to provide more inspiration and hope to break us out of our bunker mentality.

C Brown

Worksop, Nottinghamshire

The British Social Attitudes Survey shows that 54 per cent of the public believe jobless benefits are too high and discourage the unemployed from finding work. This really gets up my nose.

Take my son – who has a first-class degree from Glasgow School of Art (that has trained the last three Turner Prize winners); he is now working hard to establish himself as a self-employed artist. He is managing on a jobseekers' allowance of £54 a week. Hardly state-sponsored profligacy: more like subsistence (underwritten by parents).

If we are truly "all in this together" then let us not forget our own humanity. "There but for the grace of God..."

James Derounian

Principal Lecturer in Community Development and Local Governance,

University of Gloucestershire,

Cheltenham

Lobbyists: action delayed too long

The revelation that Bell Pottinger believe they can cleanse Uzbekistan's reputation through the miracle of Search Engine Optimisation is more laughable than sinister ("Caught on camera: top lobbyists boasting how they influence the PM", 6 December). What is more concerning is their claims to be able to influence government policy.

The Government has moved swiftly to deny these claims. If only it had moved anything like as fast to publish its long-delayed white paper on a statutory register of lobbying activity. Following the Fox/Werrity incident, it was announced this would be published at the end of November, and yet we are still waiting.

Until the Government stop procrastinating on this issue, it will come back to hurt them time and again. In this case denials are simply not good enough; it is the lack of transparency itself which enables companies such as Bell Pottinger to make such claims. Making it impossible in incidents like this to tell whether it is the public or the lobbyists' clients who are being treated like chumps only serves the interests of the lobbyists themselves.

Peter Facey

Director, Unlock Democracy

London N1

Bell Pottinger's claim to be able to influence the order of internet listings seems rather exaggerated. I Googled "Bell indecent exposure" and he came up fourth on the first page.

Keith Dunnett

Alford, Lincolnshire

America and the eurozone crisis

Sorry to do a "bah, humbug" on Hamish McRae's winter wonderland reveries of New York ("On the streets of New York, I sense a recovery", 7 December), but I'm sure his fellow shoppers were paying with credit cards, stoking the already astronomical American personal debt levels. And the question is how they get the rest of the world to continue financing their and the country's habit.

I hate the conspiracy theories that are so popular over there, but you do have to ask "cui bono?" in the present euro crisis. Despite Mr McRae's dismissive comments about Europe and the euro, the EU has overtaken the US as the world's largest economy – and the euro is the world's second largest reserve currency and traded currency, having gained strongly against the dollar in recent years. The charge against the euro has been led this week, once again, by an American ratings agency – Standard & Poor's – which threw in its spanner even before the Franco-German and eurozone summits.

So Jingle Bells to you, too, but as Mr McRae says, New York is not America, and President Obama's unfestive comments might cause a discord. He warned that the US is at a make-or-break moment for its middle classes, and that the "gaping" economic inequalities could not be allowed to continue.

Rod Chapman

Sarlat, France

It is to be hoped that enough member states of the eurozone will have the guts to resist Sarkozy's demand that they forfeit yet more of their economic (and ultimately political) independence to the diktats of Brussels.

The European project, including the introduction of a single currency, was instigated largely as a result of perennial Franco-German animosity, which in the last century twice plunged the peoples of Europe into misery and ruin.

Sarkozy seems to have forgotten that during the second of those catastrophes his country had to endure the humiliating loss of its freedom. He should know better than to expect other countries should now meekly surrender their own independence for the sake of the new-found Franco-German love affair.

If a German New Order was unacceptable in Europe in 1945, so is a Franco-German New Order in 2011.

Adrian Marlowe

The Hague

Those Eurosceptic Tories who seize any opportunity to demand referendums on the EU, in the hope that the will of Parliament can be overridden, are like Samson in the Old Testament, who brought down the temple but killed himself in the process. If the euro collapses it would mean economic disaster for everyone, but the Eurosceptics would take this risk in order to further their ideological anti-EU obsession.

Alan Pavelin

Chislehurst, Kent

The new Victorian railway folly?

Can I suggest to Steve Richards (Comment, 6 December) that another key reason High Speed Rail will probably never now be built is that it is increasingly looking like the last grand folly of the boom years and an embarrassing anomaly in the coming age of austerity?

Any decrease in journey times will be of minimal benefit to the occasional traveller, and it is becoming impossible to justify spending public billions to allow City bankers and other elite commuters just to expand into estates in the Midlands.

Remaining proponents may take a warning from history. Much of the Great Central Railway, originally part of Sir Edward Watkins' grand plan to link to Europe via a channel tunnel, and the final throw of the great 19th-century age of railway building, now lies abandoned, in some places only a few miles from the proposed HS2 route.

Simon Leadbeater

Benson, Oxfordshire

I do not think it is fair to say the end is nigh for HS2. The project's promoters have mistakenly sold it on the basis of speed, which for the Birmingham section at a cost of £17bn, looks expensive.

The point of HS2 is expanded capacity, the real time savings come when the lines to Manchester and Leeds open. Suggested new tunnelling in the Chilterns does not indicate the project's doom, just as extra tunnelling for HS1 when it switched from Waterloo to St Pancras did not.

Clive Green

London SE11

Why we must afford aid

I am amazed that a reader considers the giving of overseas aid as some sort of imperial dream, that we should scrap in the name of economy (letter, 1 December).

Surely he must be aware that, as a major trading nation, we need to import from around the world vast amounts of food, fuel, manufactured goods and other resources to maintain ourselves. It is only right, therefore, that we should help other countries when they suffer from starvation, disease, disasters and general poverty, especially as we are still far better off than most countries.

As the future rolls on, there will be times when we need to look to others for various forms of assistance, when we will expect to receive at least as much compassion as we now show to others.

Tony Howlett

Dunnington, York

Hereditary privileges

Pete Parkins' assertion that parents buy their children's way into schools in order to maintain the power of the family is the real "absurd proposition" (letter, 5 December). Many of my fellow pupils at the independent school I attend receive financial help (including myself), which for less fortunate families takes the form of a full bursary. At the risk of sounding like a school leaflet, the criterion for admission is intelligence.

I have no interest in going into politics. By Pete Parkins' logic my desire to be an artist is no doubt an extension of my father's wish to keep a monopoly of power in the art world.

Simon Thompson

Basingstoke, Hampshire

A tribute to our veterans

Nigel Cubbage (letter, 7 December) wonders, in relation to a report about Kenneth Branagh, how old one has to be to be considered a veteran. In athletics in the UK, ladies are considered veterans at the age of 35 and men at the age of 40. Sexism and ageism in one hit.

Dave Keeley

Hornchurch, Essex

If a veteran is a survivor of many campaigns, then Branagh undoubtedly qualifies. From Fortunes of War (1987) through Henry V (1985), Othello (Iago 1989) to Valkyrie (2008) he seems scarcely to have been off the battlefield for over 20 years.

Bernard O'Sullivan

London SW8

Trouble brewing

It came as some surprise to learn that one of our bailed-out banks (RBS) is selling 918 pubs across the country. Why don't they keep the pubs and get rid of the banks? Or is it that bankers can't even manage a piss-up in a brewery?

Andrew Hassall

Dronfield, Derbyshire

Feminist fish

Jeremy Laurance has got his genders the wrong way round when quoting the feminist aphorism that "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle" ("Sex and the guppy", 7 December). A man without a woman, Jeremy, is like a flounder.

Julie Harrison

Hertford

Soup is served

And we munch minestrone (letter 7 December). May we get down from the table now please?

Jan Cook

South Nutfield, Surrey

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd end the war on drugs

Patrick Hennessey
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'