Letters: The 21st century cries out for a new socialism

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, 12 August, 2013


Not surprisingly, Bruce Anderson (12 August) turns an interesting argument into a clumsy tirade about the obsolescence of socialism: “If the 20th century has one lesson to teach us... it is the need to curb the power of the state.”

That may well have been a lesson from the mid-20th century but at the beginning of the 21st the lesson is clearly the desperate need to curb the power of the Trans-National Oligarchy (TNO).

It is this loose but all-pervasive alliance of tax-avoiding corporatist dominance and obscene individual wealth that poses by far the greatest threat to our freedoms and even our survival.

Through the power of the TNO and the sycophancy of the new servile states, capitalism has found itself “not guilty” of trashing the economies of the Western world. It is therefore evidencing a renewed confidence to continue its strategy of greed and growth. However, there is absolutely no way that our planet can sustain this.

Looking to the future the world needs a new paradigm which somehow enables us to be both civilised and technologically advanced without raping and despoiling the environment on which we all depend.

Such a paradigm will have to jettison the myth of an ever-growing cake which we are all (laughably) supposed to share and feast on forever. Once this lie is consigned to its proper place among the fairies and pixies, it follows that we shall need massive redistribution of wealth for steady-state economics to succeed.

So socialism, in some form, will be crucially relevant once more. In the future we shall need environmentalism to survive, and environmentalism will need socialism in order to work.

Steve Edwards, Haywards Heath

Andy Burnham’s recent outburst might seem to have held out the hope of a break from the same ideas holding sway over all our politicians – but it does no such thing. Where the country needs the strident declaration of a new direction, he merely indicates the presence of someone else who wants our vote.

It has more to do with Andy Burnham getting on than with changing the direction of his party of mediocrities.

Vaughan Thomas, Usk, Gwent

Len McCluskey (“Union boss demands more say in Labour policy making”, 25 July) says that he wants to stop Labour in government being a “pinkish shadow”.

He might find, on a second application of his litmus paper, that members of this forlorn group are a shade of pale blue.

Why vote for them when you can have true blue Tory?

The rest of us will remain unrepresented at the next general election, since there is no sign of serious opposition.

K Ahier, Bourne End, Buckinghamshire

Good to see Norway’s Prime Minister doing a spell as a taxi driver (“You’ll never guess who I had in the front of my cab... the PM”, 12 August).

But I would be rather apprehensive if I discovered that  Ed Miliband was driving my cab.

One wouldn’t have the faintest idea in what direction he was going.

Ivor Yeloff, Hethersett, Norfolk

CCG has already improved people’s health

Your report “Health reforms take their toll as GP commissioners resign” (10 August) claimed that my “resignation” as chair of Lewisham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) threw into doubt Government health reforms.

While I may agree that more could be done to support GPs to continue to combine both clinical and administrative roles, I cannot agree with this statement.

My experience of clinical commissioning is that it is the first form of commissioning I have experienced in 23 years of working as a GP that has inspired confidence, developed partnerships, changed practice and already produced significant improvements in health outcomes.

I did not resign, I rather did not offer myself for re-election. My decision was a personal one, not a comment on clinical commissioning, made after not just four months, but effectively eight years of developing our local organisation and three years of intensive activity forming the successful organisation that is now Lewisham CCG.

My personal situation made it difficult to give my full attention to the job as chair as well as to continue to develop my own practice, and I felt both deserved more.

My successor has this time to give and will, with our excellent board (including six other dedicated GPs), continue to build on our early successes and see further improvement in both the health of our population and the sustainability of the local health economy.

It is not time to hand this task back to managers who, however skilled, do not have the clinical experience and knowledge of the population or engagement of GPs to make this possible.

Dr Helen Tattersfield, Chair, Lewisham Clinical Commissioning Group

How we should teach engineering

Regarding Richard Garner’s article “Give skills qualifications the prestige of A-level brand, urges head of CBI”, 12 August), I would point out that engineering education includes training in vocational subjects such as structural analysis, dynamics, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, acoustics, magnetostatics, electrostatics, electronics, heat transfer, combustion, etc, and not much in machine-minding; but the British press seems to think otherwise.

A machine-minder could be taught in a few days, but you can’t teach a chartered engineer how to do their job in a few days.  Moreover, to teach these subjects at A-level you will need chartered engineers in schools.

How are you going to encourage chartered engineers to work in schools when they can earn about twice as much or more in industry than they can earn in teaching in school?

Encouraging physics and mathematics teachers to train, under the guidance of chartered engineers in industry for about a year, will be a good move; but I have been saying this for over five decades and no one seemed to be interested.

The average teacher goes from school to university, and straight back to school again. This cycle is not suitable for all science and mathematics teachers, and it could be profitable to our country if these teachers spent a year in industry working alongside chartered engineers.

Professor Carl T F Ross, School of Engineering, University of Portsmouth

It’s the grades, not the interview

Students considering applying to Cambridge should not rely on Richard Humble’s advice “It’s the interview not the grades” (letter, 10 August). In fact, it is the grades, and not the interviews.

Interviews are only one small part of the information we use to assess our applicants in order to find the most academically able students from all backgrounds with the potential to thrive at Cambridge.

In all subjects, interviewers are looking for applicants who have read widely beyond the sixth-form curriculum, and show informed enthusiasm, an ability to think for themselves about the subject, and an appetite for tackling subject-related problems.

We are interested in how applicants think and how they respond to subject-focused problems. We are not interested in  firm handshakes, body language, over-rehearsed speeches or  sharp suits.

The best way to be a strong candidate for a place at Cambridge is to work hard, read widely and critically, and present us with excellent marks in your AS exams.

Dr Mike Sewell, Director of Admissions for the Cambridge Colleges, Cambridge Admissions Office

Blackpool still number one

The photo used with “Shift that will keep Tories out of northern cities for years” (12 August) in the context of housing benefit cuts showed a row of “chalets” in a former Pontins holiday camp on the edge of Blackpool (outside the town itself). These were never intended for permanent residential accommodation and are in disrepair because they are out of use.

It is not fair to a town heavily reliant on tourism to imply this is a representation of its housing stock. In the interests of balance, let me say that Blackpool is still the number-one UK seaside resort, has undergone massive regeneration and is an amazingly tolerant and colourful place.

Steven Bassett, Birmingham

Where’s he from?

Can’t someone persuade Gregory Lauder-Frost to provide a DNA report. I’m sure many of us would be interested to know the provenance of his ancestors. It might be illuminating for him too.

Christine Di Mascio, Harden, West Yorkshire

Right on target

 “The real cost of benefits squeeze: £1,600 per family” (12 August) confirms what many thought on first hearing of the “reforms”. The cuts weren’t “meant to get the jobless back to work”. They are fulfilling their actual purpose: cutting the cost of welfare regardless of the consequences to those who don’t matter to the Coalition.

Eddie Dougall, Walsham-le-Willows, Suffolk

It could be us

In the debate on overseas aid, we should remember it is the responsibility of countries that do not suffer hardships to help those that do. Perhaps one day the British Isles will need aid – especially with its expanding population – and we can only hope that there will be some countries willing to help us.

Anne Arundel, Ackworth, West Yorkshire

Wrong country

The new “Muppets” (10 August) include an Austrian science expert called Dr Strabismus. But surely Dr Strabismus (whom God preserve) came from Utrecht?

Ian Craine, London N15

Well, Mr Putin...

What would happen if Edward Snowden came out?

Lin Hawkins, Ashcott, Somerset

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