Congratulations to Amol Rajan for his warm and clearly heartfelt personal eulogy to Tony Benn. It was a shame that it was overshadowed by the mean-spirited editorial of the same day (15 March).
It has been crystal clear to the ovine minds of most commentators for three decades now that Benn “got it wrong”. After all, Thatcher won three elections and her dream of market greed and selfishness rules, now and for ever more.
Well, actually no. There has been a shift away from Benn’s vision of compassionate collectivism towards our present world order created to service the whimsical greed of the global plutocracy. However, anyone whose future horizons stretch further than the bridge of their nose will realise that the world continues to change.
The market model of exponential growth and unfettered licence to pillage the biosphere is tearing itself apart by its own excess. Climate change is just one aspect of environmental crisis. We will need environmentalism to survive and environmentalism will need redistributive socialism in order to work.
In other words, Benn’s compassionate collectivism will become a necessity. Far from a relic of the past, he will be recognised as the prophet of the future and one of the greatest figures of the 20th century.
Steve Edwards, Wivelsfield Green, East Sussex
I cringed as I heard Tony Benn telling the shop-floor workers at BAe Filton that he was about to return to France in an attempt to convince the French to carry on to the next stage of the Concorde project; knowing that it had already been agreed! When I mentioned this to him later, he said it was good for morale that they knew he was on their side; after which he somehow avoided eye contact.
Brian Christley, Abergele, Conwy
I am sure that Tony Benn would regard as a compliment the malevolence hurled at his memory, because it emanates from those who stand for the greatest possible gap between rich and poor, life governed exclusively by market forces which have no ethics, and constant and interminable growth at the expense of the survival of our planet.
Tony Benn was actually advocating Christian values in politics. I am not talking about churches, though thank God the bishops have taken up the cause of those left hungry in this wealthy country while the rich are cossetted with tax cuts, but about the ethics of Christianity.
I’m sure he didn’t see himself in this light. He was simply talking about justice, equality, making a positive contribution to the world instead of grabbing from it the maximum you can.
Eileen Noakes, Totnes, Devon
Crimea takeover: the US can’t talk
As John Kerry berates the Russian intervention in Crimea, after an unelected government took control of Ukraine, he should be reminded of America’s Monroe Doctrine and the Clark Memorandum.
These policies sanctioned both covert and military US intervention anywhere in the Caribbean basin, where US interests were regarded as being eroded or threatened. The US participated in the overthrow of the Arbenz Regime in Guatemala in 1954, recruited the 1,500 Cuban refugees for the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, trained and supplied the Salvadorean death squads from 1964-84 and in the 1980s supported the Contras in Nicaragua against the elected Sandinista government. In 1983, the US invaded Grenada to overthrow the pro-communist government and in 1989 invaded Panama.
In November 2013 John Kerry announced to the Organization of American States that the Monroe doctrine was now dead, which is, of course, correct because the US has seized upon 9/11 to undertake global intervention, anywhere that it is in US interests so to do.
Patrick Lavender, Kilkhampton, Cornwall
Steve Kerensky (letter, 14March) is mistaken when he accepts Alexey Pishchulin’s assertion that Donetsk was founded by Alexander II in 1869.
In 1869 the Welsh entrepreneur and steel maker John Hughes chose the site to establish an steel-making complex and industrial settlement that became known as Yuzovka (Hughesovka). The original Welsh settlers left before 1917 but the city Hughes founded became the principal centre of steel-making in the region. The expanding city was renamed Stalino in 1924 and eventually Donetsk in 1961.
The transfer of industrial technology between countries was a well-established practice during the 19th century and resulted in the benefits of the Industrial Revolution being felt across Europe.
David Morgans, Colchester, Essex
While the case of “Samira” (“I had to terminate my pregnancies because I was carrying girls”, 15 March) is awful in its own right, even more concerning is that it highlights two further problems inherent in some communities all over the world.
The first is the injustice that the power to make such decisions in a marriage should be so greatly biased in the husband’s favour. The second is that “Samira” already has “children”, as opposed to an existing child.
The problem of the burgeoning global population is as great as, if not more so than, the threat to the wellbeing of our planet from the profligate use of fossil fuels.
The solution to all these problems is the global emancipation of women and the granting to them of control over their own fertility. Let’s hope it happens sooner rather than later.
Liz Pearce, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire
Seabird research runs out of money
I would like to explain the position regarding the guillemot monitoring programme on Skomer Island (Nature Studies, 4 March).
We stepped in to pay for this research six years ago when the funding was under threat and signed a long-term agreement to secure that research. That agreement will come to an end in April.
We informed the University of Sheffield at least a year ago that, due to pressures on public sector budgets, it was highly unlikely that we would be in a position to extend this funding. We also took into consideration that the population of guillemots on the islands had been steadily increasing over that time.
Since then we have worked with the University and the Wildlife Trust to try and identify another funding stream that would help them with this work.
We continue to fund monitoring of sea birds, including the guillemot, on Skomer and Skokholm, through the Joint Nature Conservation Committee as part of the UK-wide Seabird Monitoring Programme. We are also in the process of consulting on plans to extend the protection for seabirds at key places such as Skomer and Skokholm. This will mean that not only the islands themselves will be protected, but also the seas that surround them.
The storms which hit Wales this winter were the most devastating for decades. Alongside our work to repair the damage to defences, we are now assessing the impact on important wildlife habitats and species. One of our priorities is to make the natural environment more resilient to extreme weather events.
Emyr Roberts, Chief Executive, Natural Resources Wales, Cardiff
A lot of unhealthy policemen
You published on 11 January a letter from me under the heading, “Met’s history of sick leave” which made the serious allegation that the Metropolitan Police Service, during the 1980s and 1990s, deliberately adopted a lax approach to the management of sick leave in order to camouflage the significant number of flawed officers who were allowed to retire on medical grounds which entailed lengthy periods of sick leave prior to the retirement.
Despite its seriousness this letter was greeted with sullen silence by the Scotland Yard hierarchy.
It now transpires that the former Metropolitan Police detective sergeant John Davidson, who has been publicly accused of playing a corrupt role in the investigation into the death of Stephen Lawrence, retired on the grounds of ill-health to run a bar on the Spanish island of Menorca.
The number of officers who have featured in several high-profile police scandals over the past 20-odd years and who have been pensioned off on medical grounds is beginning to constitute a statistical anomaly which surely merits an in-depth inquiry by the media in the public interest.
John Kenny, Acle, Norfolk
Decadence for all tastes
Commenting on your car reports from the Geneva Motor Show, Yvonne Ruge (letter, 15 March) observes that practicality is an also-ran to showing-off. Likewise the fancy-dress parades that constitute any fashion week, be it Paris, Milan or London. One is reminded of the Roman banquets where the chefs had to devise ever more bizarre concoctions to titillate over-indulged and jaded palates.
S Lawton, Kirklington, Oxfordshire