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Wednesday 25 February 2009
Letters: The BNP
How one town managed to see off the BNP
Your coverage of the BNP's latest electoral successes (21 February) should set people thinking and, more importantly, acting. It is particularly apposite while councils all over the country debate their spending for the coming year.
Oldham's experience may offer some hope. We were once their top target, with Nick Griffin a familiar candidate, yet they've never won a single Oldham election for Parliament, the borough or parish councils. They hurt us, but they failed.
Tackling them in elections is the straightforward bit. I'd say: don't ignore them; expose their unpleasant policies; but don't let them hijack the agenda. Debate the real local issues with those who oppose you but who also care. Keep the debate on solutions and the BNP can be shown up as emperors with no clothes.
The hard bit is to recognise that they thrive on genuine problems. Poverty, unemployment, housing shortages and inequality of opportunity are real and legitimate causes for anxiety and discontent. The credit crunch is a golden opportunity for the BNP. The antidote is to undertake the long, hard slog to tackle those big problems. If the public believes that the council is doing what is possible, then a protest vote becomes irrelevant. Besides, it is simply the right thing to do.
In the budget debate in Oldham, the the Lib Dem administration plans a 2.5 per cent council tax rise and a £2m-plus fund to improve the borough and fight the credit crunch. The Labour opposition proposes a council tax standstill with nothing in the kitty. With a hung council, it could go either way, but I bet I know what the BNP are hoping for.
Cabinet member for finance and resources, Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council, Lancashire
Nuclear power is not the answer
We write to express concern over the unqualified portrayal of nuclear new build as a sustainable solution to climate change ("Nuclear power? Yes, please", 23 February). Significant issues remain to be addressed, let alone resolved. These include uncertainty about nuclear fuel supply and manufacture, vulnerability to attack, security and proliferation, radioactive waste management, radiation risk and health effects, reactor safety and decommissioning
Even if financing new nuclear build were competitive in these cash-strapped times, it is not possible to build enough nuclear power stations to make a significant impact on the amount of coal that will be burnt world-wide. China, with the most ambitious nuclear programme, would achieve at most 6 per cent of its electricity from nuclear. If Britain embarked on a full-scale nuclear rebuild programme, the Government's own figures conclude that this would mitigate only 4 per cent of our CO2 emissions. Nuclear power is an expensive, inflexible option, soaking up money and slowing development of more sustainable solutions to climate change.
Offshore wind, waves, tides, biomass and photovoltaics collectively offer the potential to harness enormous energy resources. Electricity, hydrogen or fluid biofuels all offer radically different secondary energy carriers for mobility, heat or mechanical power. Each of these options can be harnessed in various forms and permutations.
The concerns that nuclear is expected to meet are real. But nuclear power does not offer the best means to deal with them. If the UK were to pursue new nuclear power now, it would load extra costs on to the British people and continue to divert attention and resources away from more effective measures. At this turning point in the evolution of our energy systems, this is the dilemma in which we find ourselves.
Professor Andy Blowers, Open University
Professor Tom Burke, Visiting Professor at Imperial and University Colleges
Dr Paul Dorfman, University of Warwick
Professor David Elliott, Open University
Professor Andy Stirling, University of Sussex
Professor Stephen Thomas, University of Greenwich
Professor Gordon Walker, Lancaster University
On behalf of the Nuclear Consultation Group
Steve Connor is absolutely right to issue another warning about the seriousness of climate change. But there is no need for anyone to panic themselves into thinking nuclear power is the answer.Yes, we have an urgent need to drastically reduce emissions. Yes, we must put the economy on something like a war footing to organise the necessary effort fast enough. But it takes many years to build a new nuclear power station, so even if nuclear was the right answer there simply wouldn't be time.
On the other hand, we can organise a massive programme of energy-saving for every home and business in the UK starting now. We can get renewable energy sources into place rapidly if we unclog the planning system and set up the kind of incentives used so successfully in Germany and Spain. Do all this quickly, and we will help tackle the recession, as green energy creates far more jobs per megawatt than nuclear.
Of course the Government and the nuclear lobbyists will try to use fear of climate change to divide the Green movement and argue for nuclear power. But we must hold our nerve. We have the science, we have the technology, we can have a zero-carbon economy soon enough – all that's needed to make it happen is the political will.
Dr Caroline Lucas MEP
Leader, The Green Party
At last, common sense from Chris Goodall and fellow Greens. Hopefully, we will see it build momentum and help get this country's energy policies back on track.
We are all suffering from the powerful pressure exerted on EU policy-setting by the Greens in Germany. There was never justification for insisting on absurdly high levels of renewable energy. A simple EU policy which focused on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and accepted nuclear energy in the mix to achieve that, would have allowed the right decisions to be made.
The tragedy is that our politicians did not have sufficient understanding of the complexities of energy supply to realise what was happening and, in addition, have allowed themselves to be unduly influenced by the Greens' agenda.
While I respect the decisions of Green activists who have come to the awesome decision that they must accept nuclear power, I hope they will use their influence to ensure the new stations have the cost of insuring the power stations built in to the equation.
At present, they are insured for less than 1 per cent of the cost of a Chernobyl-type accident, which creates an uneven playing field, since sustainable forms of energy have to carry full insurance against accidents.
Dr Richard Lawson
Churchill, North Somerset
Amid all the discussion over whether nuclear power is now an acceptable low-carbon energy source, the true elephant in the room remains unacknowledged. As long as shops keep their doors open all winter, offices leave their lights on all night, and many roads are illuminated like Premier League football pitches, I remain unconvinced that we need any new power stations at all. If asked if I "want the lights to go out then", I have to say, "Yes, please."
Hinton St George, Somerset
Rare privilege of an older father
Janet Street-Porter is the patron saint of sweeping generalisations, when she stigmatises older fathers (Opinion, 18 February). I am 55 in a few weeks. I was married for 27 years to a lovely woman who got terminal cancer and died in 2003. It was an infertile marriage, but we both lived with it and got on with our lives.
In 2005, somewhat to my surprise, a younger and wonderful woman deigned to marry me. In late 2006 we had a daughter and in 2008 a son. As I am semi-retired and work from home I play a full role in childcare, and thoroughly enjoy the rare privilege of watching my children grow up.
What am I supposed to have done? Followed Queen Victoria and worn black for 40 years? Or savour everything good that life has to offer?
Barford St Michael, Oxfordshire
Quantitative theft from all the people
Quantitative easing will be applied soon. Over recent months, the value of sterling has fallen. The rest of the world has little confidence in the UK Government and the consequence is that everything we possess has lost about 25 per cent of its world value.
Quantitative easing is the increase in the quantity of money in the UK with no assets to support it. That is a further dilution of what UK citizens own; in other words it is plain theft, organised by the Government. We must resist.
Market Rasen, Lincolnshire
In view of recent concerns about importing cheap foreign labour in many sectors of the British economy, it is courageous of British bankers to declare that they need a pay increase (24 February).
Perhaps we could introduce them to the bracing realities of flexible labour markets by importing cheaper foreign bankers to replace them? Preferably from a country where they have managed to refrain from wrecking their economy through greed and incompetence. Does India have any decent bankers?
David Cameron makes populist noises attacking bankers' bonuses but, given the general political stance of the City rich, what's the betting that some of that money will end up funding the Tory party?
English neglect of engineers
Part of the problem of undervaluing engineers (letter, 24 February) is the English language. When we send for someone to fix the phone or the washing machine, we often talk of sending for an "engineer". But neither of these people will be an engineer: they are technicians. On the Continent there is a much clearer distinction in usage: people do talk about sending for a technician to fix the phone.
Indeed in many countries engineers may use "Engineer" as a title. When I worked in Holland I was known as Ir. Watson. The German equivalent is Ing. I am aware that some years ago the Council of Engineering Institutions tried to persuade the Privy Council to allow professional engineers in this country to use a similar title, but this didn't happen. Instead we could put C Eng. after our name, but there is a general reluctance in this country to take notice of letters after names.
Ian K Watson
Romance and politics
It has been impossible to avoid Mr Straw on the news embracing popular culture in a major way. Could this be more to do with positioning himself for the Labour Party leadership sweepstake than any deep and abiding interest in romantic weddings, and do we think it will work?
Angmering, West Sussex
War for our values
I am amazed that the idea of a war on terror has lasted so long (report, 17 February). Not only has it failed to end "terror", but has also polarised people around the world in to the good or evil camps. The new laws brought in to place since 9/11 are, as Arthur Chaskelson states, counter-productive. If these "terrorists" are out to destroy our values and society, then we should do everything in our power to uphold them, not destroy them.
Newcastle upon Tyne
David Smith (letters, 19 February) is spot on with his analysis in his desire for a new economic orthodoxy to replace the obsession with "growth". Aside from the rapid depletion of oil, gas and vital minerals, even on today's population there are only six acres of land for every person (in the UK it is one), and this reduces to two acres of useable land per person. That should be warning in itself that we are coming to the end of the road in respect of our ability to sustain the world population under the present economic system.
Suffering for art
What Howard Jacobson (22 February) has not yet grasped about opera is that God arranged this "entertainment" for us as a punishment. Go to see any of it – worse, pay so to do and sit unsighted behind bald heads or whatever, and 100 yards from the stage – and you are serving a penance. And you will be impelled to do this time and time again. There is no escape I'm afraid, Howard. It's Huis Clos set to music. Exquisite!
It is rather brave of the Dallas hardware store to offer former US President George W Bush the position as a store greeter ("What Dubya did next", 24 February). How can it be sure that Bush will not intimate the customers with his welcoming words: "Are you with us or with the opposition?"
Burradoo, New South Wales, Australia
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