The Lib Dem MP Jeremy Browne (8 April) writes: “The task today is to push power, money, information and choice down to the individual citizen, so everyone can enjoy opportunities a fortunate few take for granted.” His solution: give those fortunate few more money!
He does not actually say so but the logic of his argument is that those “fortunate few” earning a minimum of £150,000 a year are so despondent at the burden of taxation that they are at present marking time, working to rule, and therefore need a tax gift to unleash the “individuality, creativity, originality” which only they possess.
This is all in aid of keeping up with an Asia-driven resurgent capitalism. In other words, more growth, more consumption, more pillaging of finite resources, more pollution, global warming, deforestation, acidification of the oceans etc, etc. Or to put it another way: “Foot flat to the floor; there’s a bottomless pit straight ahead.”
Mr Browne wants “a willingness to challenge stale thinking”, but his own thinking is not just stale but fossilised. It is also extremely unjust and dangerous.
Steve Edwards, Wivelsfield Green, East Sussex
Your editorial supporting a reduction in the 45 per cent tax rate (8 April) demonstrates that you just don’t get it. Tax rates should rise with income, until, at the highest level, they do become confiscatory.
Do we wish to live in a fair society? Morality, not economics, should direct our thoughts. No individual is entitled to preposterous wealth when so many go without; to entertain such a philosophy is to encourage an even more unequal society. Advocates of lower taxes are almost always those who already have too much.
Finlay Fraser, Cottingham, East Yorkshire
Wind, solar or biomass?
While Jane Merrick is of course correct that the British weather is variable (3 April), she is wrong to suggest that this means onshore wind farms don’t make sense.
Onshore wind is cheaper per unit of electricity generated than any other source of renewable electricity. It is also cheaper than new nuclear, which, under current government proposals, will receive subsidies for 35 years as well as up to a £10bn loan guarantee from the Treasury.
Electricity from onshore wind soared by 36 per cent last year compared with 2012 and contributed nearly 5 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs. Most polls suggest that 70 per cent of the British public are in favour of onshore wind turbines.
It is important to focus on a range of renewables as we move towards a decarbonised electricity mix, but onshore wind has an important part to play for the foreseeable future.
Nick Molho, Head of Climate and Energy Policy, WWF-UK, Woking, Surrey
Jane Merrick’s views on the inefficiency of onshore wind turbines reflect mine about solar “farms”. As a broad supporter of green initiatives, I naively thought that there was a grand plan to situate solar panels on domestic and commercial roofs, brownfield sites and areas of no agricultural or scenic value, a great way of gaining an extra dividend from these sites. Not so, it seems.
Applications are flooding in, all over the country, to snatch the cash and cover thousands of acres of good-quality agricultural land with solar panels in a modern gold rush. This at a time when we have an increasing population, a need for land for new housing, land being lost to coastal erosion, and an annual food import bill of some £8bn. And are reliably told that world food production is set to fall.
At least the footprint of a wind turbine is small and sensible things can be done with the surrounding land.
Tim Colyer, Diss, Norfolk
Surely only a political mind could dream up the insanity that is currently encompassing Drax Power Station, North Yorkshire.
You truly have to wonder at the idea that it would be environmentally worthy and economically viable to convert the largest coal-fired power station in Europe to one that burns wood (biomass) – wood chips that need importing over 3,000 miles from the forests of North Carolina.
Common sense makes it obvious that destroying acres of forests, processing them into wood chips then transporting these thousands of miles will not prove environmentally or economically viable.
The wood-fuelled furnaces produce 3 per cent more carbon dioxide than coal, and twice as much in gas emissions. In the longer term, you and I will be paying £105 per MW/hr for Drax’s biomass electricity, compared with the current market cost of just £50 per MW/h.
Drax says it is simply responding to government policy. Only out-of-touch, misinformed and foolish politicians could wreck the environment in the name of saving the planet. Our whole UK energy policy belongs in the madhouse.
Dave Haskell, Penparc, Cardigan
The Great War against German aggression
A new First World War comic-book is designed to combat Michael Gove’s “jingoistic” interpretation (report, 2 April). It is important to remember the stories of those on all sides of the conflict and of the pacifists and the shell-shocked executed as cowards, and to remember the awful loss of life. It is wrong, however, to call Gove’s interpretation “jingoistic”.
Wilhelm II of Germany had imperialist ambitions, and used the conflict in the Balkans as a way to escalate to a full-scale European war. The victors’ peace imposed on Russia at Brest-Litovsk in 1917, where the latter lost Ukraine, Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Belarus, shows this imperialist agenda.
Recent research has revealed that the German “rape of Belgium” in August and September 1914 actually occurred. The German high command ordered systematic atrocities against the Belgians, killing 6,000, destroying 25,000 homes in 837 settlements and displacing up to 1.5 million Belgians (20 per cent of the population). Up to 10,000 workers were forcibly removed from Belgium to build German roads and military facilities. The German army also dismantled Belgian factories, relocating machinery to Germany. Belgium, the sixth largest economy in the world, was reduced to a mere shell of its former self and never fully regained its pre-war economic activity.
The majority of Britons saw the war as a painful but necessary way to stop German aggression.
Harrison Edmonds, Cheadle, Cheshire
Farage’s leap into the unknown
Mary Dejevsky is right (4 April) that the appeal of Nigel Farage is his anti-establishment rhetoric. But he is also a hugely entertaining and persuasive communicator, well able to hold his own in televised debates as well as in front of a packed audience of students at the LSE in January.
He will obviously do well in the European elections, but when it comes to the referendum, voters will not be prepared to take that leap into the unknown and withdraw from the European Union. Better the devil they know.
Stan Labovitch, Windsor
Nightmare of an old folks’ home
Grace Dent’s “dream old-folks’ home” (8 April) sounds like a version of hell to me. The prospect may have been what drove Anne to suicide.
The point about assisted dying is that it provides people with another option. We all have our own views of what constitutes a good quality of life; it’s no one’s business to tell someone else how they should feel.
Susan Alexander, Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire
Killer’s payout for prison attack
The press appears to agree that Levi Bellfield, who is in prison for killing three young women, should not have been allowed to sue the prison service after being attacked in jail. They seem to be ignoring the fact that the relatively small payout amounts to little more than a rare slap on the wrist for the authorities for allowing prisoners to attack each other with weapons.
Have we really degenerated so much that we think being shanked in prison is just fine?
Jim Jepps, London NW1
Royal visits to rich countries
It seems that the royals tend to frequent only the richest Commonwealth countries, such as New Zealand, Australia and Canada, whenever they make official trips abroad, while the vast majority of poorer Commonwealth countries rarely appear on their schedule. Is there a specific reason for this that your readers may know about?
Chris Ryecart, Dovercourt, Essex
Parliament must regulate itself
Despite the general disquiet about its handling of Maria Miller’s expenses claims, Parliament, at least the elected part of it, should not concede authority over its members to another body. A future government might stuff any independent oversight authority with its own people to harry independent-minded MPs.
John Hartland, Cambridge