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Wednesday 28 December 2011
Letters: Thatcher not to blame for loss of jobs
To blame Margaret Thatcher for the loss "of millions of highly skilled manufacturing jobs abroad", as Alan Hinnrichs seeks to do (letters, 17 December), is like blaming King Canute because he could not stop the tide rising.
I have worked at all levels of manufacturing industry (including trade union membership) all my life and the biggest factor in its long-term decline, pre- and post-Thatcher, has been the abysmal quality of management coupled with, in some industries, the dinosaurs of the trade union movement.
One other factor in the decline was an artificially high exchange rate, for which politicians of all parties must share the blame.
But how can any politician be blamed for the sheer incompetence of manufacturers such as British Leyland selling the cars at a loss and not knowing they were doing so? Like Fred the Shred, those responsible walked away with generous severance payments and their workers lost their jobs. These are examples of the death wish that has afflicted manufacturing in Britain.
For a time, I was a non-executive director of a public-sector manufacturing company and that convinced me that civil servants are hopelessly incompetent at management. They initiated an agreement with an American company which virtually gave the Americans a licence to rob the British taxpayer.
The only political intervention that I can think of that worked in manufacturing was the rescue of Rolls-Royce. The rest, such as the De Lorean fiasco which cost 2,500 jobs and over $100m in investments, were expensive failures.
Margaret Thatcher's strength was to realise that the world does not owe us a living but that we have to earn it in a highly competitive world and it depends on the private sector and not public subsidies. It is a lesson some apparently still need to learn.
To suggest that this woman be given a state funeral (letters, 24 December) is one more indication of how this government has no regard for the people feeling the full brunt of the inequalities in this country. My thoughts turn to Winston Churchill who was once asked to give a statement about some point in the life of Stanley Baldwin. He refused, saying, "I have no personal animosity towards Stanley Baldwin but I have long ago reached the conclusion that our country would be a better place had he never been born".
Theses are my feelings precisely with regard to Margaret Thatcher. Her policies put into practice with fanatical zeal have been a disaster for Britain.
The "Big Bang" that removed regulation from the financial sector has led directly to our present dire economic state. Now we are told that we must allow this freedom from regulation to continue. Has the government gone mad?
When the time comes for Margaret Thatcher's funeral, it should be private. A state funeral would surely come in late and over-budget.
Hunting law must be enforced, not ignored by a few
While I agree that the law banning the hunting of wild animals with dogs should stay, I cannot agree with your reasons (leading article, 27 December), which seem to be of the "anything for a quiet life" attitude.
It will take time for people to get used to not killing animals for fun. The present law is just one more step towards a humane society. We are still a long way off but we would get there more quickly if the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, among others, did their jobs properly and dealt with the outbreak of lawlessness that has existed since hunting was banned. In no other sphere do we rely on unpaid volunteers to police the criminal classes but that is what is happening on the hunting fields.
The hunting of live animals for fun is a disgraceful, ancient barbarism that is rightly now illegal, but what is equally disgraceful is the ease with which the rich and powerful of the land have created a climate where they are immune from prosecution when they break the law.
What's with this "unenforceable hunting law" nonsense (report, 26 December)? Since there have been convictions it is absurd to say that it is unenforceable. It has been suggested that some chief police officers choose not to enforce the law. That means only that the law isn't enforced, not that it's unenforceable.
The law against trespass is similarly "unenforceable". Would hunters like that law to be dropped, I wonder? Hunt supporters should be content to know that they can still dress up and hunt, and that, since the ban, hunting has become more popular. If they are desperate to have a fox ripped to shreds, they can always toss one into into the kennels at feeding time.
Stratford upon Avon
Capitalism and socialism unite
Time to climb out of the capitalist vs socialist trenches and start to draft an enduring compromise (letters, 27 December). Why do we persist with the idea that the two are mutually exclusive anyway? We are in over our heads with objective evidence that unregulated capitalism is harmful, even to capitalist institutions. The record of states claiming socialist credentials is varied.
The futile competition between the contending ideologies is really little more than a small coterie of Type A personalities, whom we have been foolish enough to elect or who have usurped power in some way, all saying, "Everyone is wrong except me", then imposing their prejudices without further deliberation. Money, banks, markets and capitalism generally, when employed as tools and not deities, can have utility. Community, caring, compassion, equality and social cohesion are our evolutionary inheritance and have self-evident utility.
Haydon Bridge, Northumberland
Ray Wilkes is clearly too young ever to have lived in a socialist state. I did, from 1945 till 1951, and I was perfectly happy. This was the government which, among other reforms, established the NHS, made grammar schools and universities accessible to those on low incomes and took measures to ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth. It was led by a mild-mannered lawyer by the name of Clement Attlee.
Mr Wilkes might also like to ponder the fact that we do, in effect, now live in a totalitarian state.
We are governed by a coalition of bankers and shareholders, on behalf of whose profits our political leadership of Cameron, Osborne, Clegg, Miliband and Balls is, coincidentally, at this very moment busy dismantling Attlee's achievements.
Holmfirth, West Yorkshire
Compliant unions have sold out
How to compare the recent TUC sell-out on pensions? You could start with the 1926 General Strike. Then, as reports flooded in from the regions – "Strike solid", "Unprecedented solidarity" – the TUC chose that moment to capitulate and failed to even secure reinstatement for strikers. This act condemned thousands of trade unionists to exist for years on the dole. The more "militant" miners were left to fight on their own.
Now, the paltry "concessions" on pensions for the low-paid and phased increases for contributions are meaningless; it is still work until 68, pay 3 per cent more and get lower payments because they will be based on the Consumer Price Index.
In fact, the compliant unions have signed the death warrant for public-sector pensions, in the face of a four-year pay freeze. Once the increased pension contributions come through, millions of workers will be forced to abandon their pension payments. I'm beginning to get deja vu, a Conservative government privatising the NHS and education, destroying union rights and meanwhile the TUC is playing the role of punchbag.
The Government seems to have a policy of replacing RPI with CPI as the measure for uplifting pensions and other benefits. The difference between these two measures is usually ascribed in the media to the difference in the "basket" of prices covered, and they are different. But even if they used the same data, the actual calculation is different: the CPI relies much more on geometric means and RPI on arithmetic means.
The significance of this can be shown if you write down the different expressions for the means of a pair of distinct numbers. It takes only two or three lines of algebra to prove mathematically that the geometric mean (CPI) is always less than the arithmetic mean (RPI).
Proving this might be a useful exercise in algebra for mathematics teachers to give to any GCSE class. But the real point would be that, by linking it to CPI and RPI, it would contribute to the understanding of personal finance sought by the parliamentary group on financial education (report, 12 December).
If the teachers set it as homework, it might also inform a tranche of parents.
We need social care reform now
On the one hand the Government is reaffirming its commitment to social care reform in a White Paper in the spring. But on the other, its main advisers are saying that key elements of reform might not come in for 14 more years. The system is broken now. Social care is under-funded, people are going without care, and care businesses are going to the wall today.
If reforms proposed by Dilnot are kicked into the long grass again – as similar reform proposals have been in the past – then it will be a betrayal of the older and vulnerable people who have a right to expect better.
Chair, Independent Care Group (York and North Yorkshire), Scarborough
Considering the legacy of excessive "good times" debt, uncontrolled immigration, middle-class non-jobs and tax-cum- benefits complications; plus the Northern Rock RBS HBOS bailouts, global credit crunch, US Republican/Democrat stand-offs, unhelpful EU/ECHR rulings, and the never-ending euro saga, surely it is not surprising that unemployment is increasing, but also highly creditable that the UK is achieving any growth at all. So we should give three cheers for the real economy's productive areas, and that means in both the private and public sectors.
St Andrews, Fife
I wonder if anybody has considered performance-related tax rates for bankers. Their annual tax rate would vary between 30 and 90 per cent based on the performance of the UK economy over the previous five to 10 years. That way, when they screw up the economy, they can feel our pain, and when they get it working well, they can feel our joy.
In Saturday's Concise Crossword (#7859), the clue to 11 down was "Israeli town". The answer was "Bethlehem", though that is not an Israeli town but a Palestinian one. Even in Biblical times, as far as I'm aware, Bethlehem was in Judea (or Judah).
Graham P Davis
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