Letters: The defeated have learned more than the victors

These letters appear in the Monday 9th issue of The Independent

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Your D-Day report’s front-page headline (7 June) asked what lessons we have learnt in the intervening 70 years, then concentrated on the Ukraine. The European elections suggested a problem far closer to home – and that the victors and the liberated of the Second World War have greater difficulty learning some lessons than the losers.

Voters in many of the European democracies turned to unashamedly populist parties. These parties are exploiting anger, hatred and intolerance, the spawning grounds for xenophobia and racism.

They preach contempt of the established political parties; hark back to their perceived glories of nationalism; demonise immigrants and minority groups; and rail against long-term attempts at international cooperation such as the EU. Ring any bells from the 1930s?

Meanwhile, the two European Axis powers, Germany and Italy, cast their votes predominantly for the mainstream parties – despite, in Italy’s case, previous support for a colourful populist party. Coincidence? Perhaps – or maybe a keener desire to avoid the mistakes of history.

Rod Chapman, Sarlat, France


One minute it’s the continuing First World War commemorations, the next it’s the anniversary of D-Day and the Second World War. When will it stop? To celebrate heroic fighting is one thing, but war itself should never be celebrated. Neither should those who took us there.

Readers may not have seen these facts in the recent coverage: Winston Churchill was against D-Day. He was far more interested in holding on to our empire, and especially our trade routes to India via the Mediterranean. That’s why between Dunkirk and D-Day, the British barely engaged the German military on land at all.

Russia, in effect, won the Second World War, by sacrificing millions of troops and gutting Hitler’s forces. Stalin urged the allies to open a western front years earlier, and it was only when President Roosevelt agreed, and Churchill was outvoted, that D-Day went ahead.

Germany’s leaders let loose a military that created havoc throughout much of Europe, but Britain and its allies then committed atrocities of their own.

We are told that D-Day led to decades of peace. Tell that to the Vietnamese, Koreans, Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans, Panamanians, Cubans, Egyptians, Chileans, Palestinians and Nicaraguans.

Colin Crilly, London SW17


It seems that you do not know – or want to forget – history when you head your editorial “We should remember it was an alliance of East and West that made victory possible” (7 June).

You seem to have forgotten these facts:

In 1939 Stalin made an agreement with Hitler that when Hitler marched into the front door of Poland, Russia would march into the back door of Poland – how many innocent Polish people died has never been certified. And after the war, in 1945, Russia under Stalin occupied many countries – until they were freed in the 1990s.

So the Russia of the past cannot hold its head high as your editorial seems to suggest, and the West must be concerned about what is the aim of the present leadership of Russia.

Michael Moss, Ickenham, London


Gove is the reason I am quitting teaching

We in the teaching profession are accused of denying “working-class children access to anything stretching or ambitious”. What angers us so much is that Michael Gove has not consulted the profession adequately.

We teach mixed-ability children from all backgrounds. For able children, we choose challenging texts. By choosing different texts and resources, we work hard to engage the interest of less able children who may have learning difficulties or problems with motivation and commitment. Examination boards have also worked hard to develop materials that are accessible to a full range of students and to which they can relate.

I have loved teaching English. I have chosen different ways to enable students to achieve A* grades and those of lesser ability to exceed expectations. Gove’s reforms will make it impossible for me to enthuse, motivate and inspire my students. I will now be leaving the profession and I will be using my transferable skills elsewhere where they will be valued more highly.

Martha Patrick, London SE13


Tory Education ministers Michael Gove and Elizabeth Truss seem to  be changing the UK national curriculum purely to ensure that the nation’s children are fit for the workplace.

If that’s their plan, then they need to start teaching about employment rights and trade unions, too.

Jo Rust, King’s Lynn, Norfolk


If Michael Gove wants to “drain the swamp”, then why doesn’t his department insist on all pupils being taught evolution, cosmology and palaeontology?

The answer, of course, is that too many people have a vested interest in maintaining ignorance. We need to ensure that all pupils leave school knowing that “faith” is not a sensible way of understanding the world.

Peter Foxton, Buckhurst Hill, Essex

Don’t surrender the flag to bullies

Charles Garth (letter, 7 June) advocates putting an Islamic symbol such as the crescent on the flag of St George in order to include those of the Muslim faith in England in the national football cause.

Why exclude Hindus, Sikhs and our Chinese communities? Perhaps they are not threatening enough and do not scare him and, unlike bullies in all walks of life, they do not require placating by the weak and afraid.

Michael R Gordon, Bewdley, Worcestershire


Charles Garth suggests that we include a crescent in the English flag to keep Muslims happy.

But far from being an expression of a multicultural society, this would only give rise to charges of favouritism from other minorities who would feel discriminated against.

So I suggest that in the other three quarters we add the Petrine cross keys for Roman Catholics, the kirpan for Sikhs, and the wheel of Ashoka for Hindus and Buddhists.

Alternatively, we could just have a black and white flag with a pink border to show we are neither racists nor homophobic and definitely have nothing against Taoists. Who could possibly disagree?

Dominic Kirkham, Manchester


An Islamic crescent in the top left corner of the flag of St George?

According to Muslim culture, that would signify an alignment with the values of the flag. Surely any Muslim flying such a flag would be identified as an apostate and executed?

David Rose, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands


Let’s have a campaign to save Ingrams

I was greatly distressed by Richard Ingrams’ employment problems at The Oldie. I have appreciated his “awkwardness” over the years and the good it has done.

The UK has a maturing workforce, and accommodations should be made for this and other matters. I suggest that being “one of God’s great squad of awkward Englishmen” is a disability under the 2010 Equality Act. The matter should be taken to an employment tribunal. To raise the £900 or so required to support this action, an Awkwardnessballs Fund should be initiated. I will be one of the first to contribute.

Aidan Challen, Cambridge


Secret courts are a sign of defeat

Britain faced up to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union without sacrificing our system of justice. It beggars belief that we need to sacrifice it now for fear of the Big Bad Terrorist.

A bunch of medieval loonies is no threat to us; support open British justice and leave secret trials to the faint hearts and totalitarians.

Barry Tighe, Woodford Green, London


When is a WAG not a WAG?

With the imminent arrival of the World Cup, I am confident that we will be inundated with salacious gossip about the camp followers, normally known as WAGs. While this acronym works when describing groups of these vacuous entities, please do not fall into the trap that many of the red-tops  do of describing one such person as a WAG. While that person might be a wife and girlfriend, that would in itself merit a different story in the scandal-seeking press.

The correct acronym for a singleton of the species should be derived from the phrase “wife or girlfriend”, but I do understand that this might cause difficulties with a large proportion of your readership. Perhaps you might be tempted to ignore stories about these people altogether – and just report real news.

John Broughton, Broad Haven, Pembrokeshire