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Saturday 1 May 2010
Letters: The final leaders' debate
Now for the final choice
Now that the TV beauty contest is over, Miss UK voter has to decide who she wants to settle down with over the next few years, and the big question is who is most likely to sort out the housekeeping.
It can't be Gordon, with his dreadful record of spending money that isn't there. And telegenic young Nick does seem to have some terribly wacky ideas about finance. So this leaves Dave: he's a dark horse but he seems the best bet.
I was interested to note in the final leaders' debate that Mr Cameron plans to deal with unemployment and a lack of jobs for young people by cutting government waste and stopping the "jobs tax". He also noted that the economy is a separate entity from the Government.
Separate perhaps but not unrelated, as cutting government waste will involve cutting many jobs in the public sector. Not only will this lead to an immediate rise in unemployment, but much of the burden will fall on young people thanks to the ubiquity of last-in-first-out policies.
This, combined with a lack of new hiring, will make it impossible for many under-25s to find work, and so we will see another lost generation under the Tories. Any "jobs tax" will make little difference in such a climate, particularly for those who end up not having to pay it anyway.
We are in the worst economic crisis for a generation, and are promised the most savage of public spending cuts. It will need all the skills of the next government to solve the current problems. So what we need is one that will prioritise these matters by spending time on ... er ... bringing back fox-hunting.
The Tories are not the party for the people or for the country. They are the party for the Countryside Alliance and the self-interested. Do not be fooled.
Welwyn garden City
I received a general election communication from the Labour Party candidate which asked me to contrast the achievements of Labour today with the Tory recession of the 1980s. This overlooks the fact that the recession of the 1980s was caused by the need to sort out the economic mess left by the outgoing Labour government, following the Winter of Discontent.
When the Tories left office in 1997, the economy was in the best condition since the Second World War; more than can be said today. How many more times are the Labour Party going to try to convince the electorate that they are good at running the economy, when all of the evidence is to the contrary?
Europe. We're part of it, geographically, physically and politically, and it is by far our largest trading partner. For this country to prosper it is essential that we participate, positively and wholeheartedly, in its continued development.
Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg are both committed Europeans and have track records to prove it. David Cameron isn't and hasn't. As soon as the Conservatives utter the word "renegotiate" in a European context, the money markets will take fright, the pound will plummet and we'll be back in recession.
This prospect is entirely preventable. Use your vote.
On Monday evening nearly 400 people crowded into a pre-election hustings in Blackheath to hear representatives of the three main parties present themselves and their party policies. Don't let anyone claim that the public is not interested in politics.
Our message to the political leaders is: get real. We know something really nasty is heading our way; we want to know which party is best equipped to deal with it. So stop offering us bribes you can't deliver; stop trying to frighten us; just tell us how your party would attempt to clear up the mess that we're in. Then we'll tell you whom we prefer.
One obvious solution to the depressing imbalance between the sexes in this male-dominated election campaign, highlighted by Andrew Grice (29 April), would have been to engage a female to chair at least one of the three prime ministerial television debates. It's not as though there there's a shortage of intelligent, upfront women interviewers with more than enough political acumen to host such an event.
How refreshing it would have been not to have had these forums presented by the usual suspects. But even the media seem to regard the political arena as a white, male sport. What happened to thinking outside the blokey box?
Alderley Edge, Cheshire
We have finally witnessed the pinnacle of television's contribution to democracy. Now the country must choose one of three: ITV, Sky or the BBC.
Hidden peril of asbestos
Jeremy Laurance ("The tragic time bomb that took Malcolm McLaren's life", 27 April) accurately and poignantly identifies the tragedy of Malcolm McLaren's death: a life cut short by a silent killer, asbestos, which, even now, as the mesothelioma pandemic takes its toll, is hardly acknowledged.
But the full tragedy of this death, and thousands of others, lies in the fact that the danger of asbestos was known long before the 1970s. Factory inspectors warned of the "injurious effects" of asbestos in the late 1880s, and the first asbestos regulations were introduced in 1931. By the early 1960s mesothelioma was known to be caused by even brief exposure to asbestos.
Jeremy Laurance has rightly, and opportunely, exposed the mesothelioma tragedy, still largely hidden from view, just as the Health and Safety Executive continues its hard-hitting campaign to warn tradespeople today of the dangers of thousands of tonnes of asbestos still lodged in buildings. Nothing can be done now to prevent the unnecessary deaths of those, like Malcolm McLaren, exposed to asbestos many decades ago, but highlighting the cause of his death may help prevent further exposure to asbestos and yet more deaths.
Chair, Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK, Manchester
The lost era of sportsmanship
Regarding the discussion about "twisted snarling faces" at football matches, this is something I have noticed too in recent years. It's not about the game belonging to everyone, as Paul Severn suggests (letter, 29 April), but about the way people in general have changed.
I recently got a hold of a Match of the Day DVD, with highlights from the 1960s onwards, and it was so refreshing to see home fans applauding an away team's goal just because it was a good one (particularly Anfield's Kop) as opposed to the blood vessel-bursting hatred spewed out today whenever a player so much as goes near opposing fans.
Additionally, there were some brutal fouls back then but players didn't always have their hands all over their opponents and routinely trip or block anyone who happened to beat them.
Amnesty for immigrants
What is the big deal about the Lib Dems' suggestion of an "amnesty" for illegal immigrants who have been in the UK for 10 years?
Under the Immigration Rules (276B) – put in place by the Labour government and policy of the previous Conservative government – a person who has been here illegally for 14 years will be granted leave to remain anyway unless contrary to the public interest – for instance becauseof a serious criminal record.
In any event, because of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, it is very difficult to remove most people who have been here for 10 years – even if you could find them and the Government was prepared to invest the enormous resources to do so.
Our historic radio sets
I must be one of many "men of a certain age" who can identify the communications receiver pictured with Alan Sillitoe accompanying the Independent interview of 27 April. For Michael Clemitson's information (letter, 30 April) the set on top of the AR88 is an R1155, identical to the one I bought at the age of 14 in 1954 and which is still in my possession.
The R1155 saw service as standard equipment in the Lancaster bomber during the Second World War, accompanied by the T1154 transmitter. Both units were available on the government surplus market in the early 1950s, the R1155 being the receiver of choice for impecunious schoolboys interested in short-wave listening.
J M Chambers
Calbourne, Isle of Wight
Oh yes, how those teenagers squirm at the word "jolly", uttered by their parents (letter, 29 April). I also recommend an enthusiastic "Cheerio" as their friends leave.
Descartes and Dawkins
Contra E Jane Dickson (Opinion, 29 April), Descartes did not insist that God must exist "because he [Descartes] believed in him", and neither does Richard Dawkins insist that God cannot exist "because he [Dawkins] has no such apprehension".
Descartes believed that, through the use of reason applied to the contents of the mind, he could demonstrate the existence of God to the satisfaction of most rational people. And Dawkins believes that, through the use of reason applied to the contents of the world, he can demonstrate the opposite, again to the satisfaction of most rational people.
In doing so, both demonstrate a willingness to engage seriously with rational argument that is critical of their position.
Dickson's dismissal of these thoughtful, rich and complex efforts at rational questioning as arrogant and dogmatic is breathtaking, and her own recommendation that religious believers should close their minds to these kinds of argument about their beliefs strikes me as the quickest way to produce arrogance and dogmatism.
I do not understand why religious believers would ever want to close their minds in this way. If they believe that God did create them, then surely they must also believe that one of his most precious gifts is the power of reason. To refuse to use it may appear to him to be an act of incomprehensible ingratitude.
Professor of Applied Philosophy, University of Wales, Newport
I am astonished by E Jane Dickson's attack on Professor Dawkins, who, in his book The God Delusion takes more than 80 pages to cover the reasons for believing or not believing in the existence of God. To say that his beliefs are based on personal incredulity is an insult.
It's the metaphors that matter
The question of God's existence is an ontological and not an existential, or empirical, one: that is, one has to ask oneself what it means to speak of God. What is the nature of God's Being? What do we mean when we use the words Absolute Being? If God were some kind of thing whose nature could be encompassed by the human mind, God, as a matter of logic, would not be God.
The difference between God and the Yeti (letter, 28 April) is that we know what could constitute proof of the Yeti's empirical existence. As Aquinas put it "We know God by analogy [with a loving father]." All talk of God is metaphorical, not descriptive.
Theism and atheism are both positions of belief: evidence may support arguments for existence or non-existence of God in the sense that such beliefs are rational or coherent, but one cannot argue from such evidence to belief. Rather like love: there may be good reason to believe that you love me, but its existence is in the relationship, not in external proof.
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