Letters: The Lib Dem pantomime over Rennard

These letters were published in the 22nd January edition of the Independent

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What a Lib Dem own goal! Molehills and mountains, storms and teacups come to mind. My more than 40 years of a career in a mainly male environment taught me that:

a) There always are and always will be unpleasant, arrogant or inadequate men who will “try it on”. (We’re not talking about illegal offences here.)

b) The problem is invariably solved by a slap on the wrist of the offending hand, a shoe heel brought smartly down on the male foot, or a sweetly but loudly voiced, “Please keep your hands to yourself.”

If these delicate women lack self-reliance they should stop whingeing, gather up their smelling salts and retire to their ladies’ boudoirs. If their life skills are so weak then these sensitive flowers have no place in politics or business; they only impede the advance of genuinely capable women. Not to mention the harm they do to their party.

This country has big issues to face. This pantomime is not one of them. Weakness, embarrassment and time-wasting all round, Lib Dems.

Barbara Sanders, London SW20

Either we have the rule of law in this country or we don’t. If we do, then we are going to have to start taking the presumption of innocence a lot more seriously than is currently the case in relation to Lord Rennard.

The overwhelming majority of press comment, including Joan Smith’s comment piece (21 January), has been based on the assumption that the allegations against Lord Rennard are true. I don’t know if they are, but then neither does she. What I do know is that the case was looked into over a long period of time by the Metropolitan Police, who concluded that there was insufficient evidence to proceed, and that that was also the conclusion of the independent inquiry into the matter, carried out by Alistair Webster QC, which put the likelihood of success in court at below 50 per cent. Had the case gone to court it would seem that both the police and the inquiry would expect Lord Rennard to be acquitted. 

The only regimes which have allowed suspicion or unproven allegation to be the basis for condemning the accused have been dictatorships and tyrannies. The secrecy and lack of due process which has characterised the Liberal Democrats’ handling of the case may invite uncomfortable comparisons with such oppressive regimes, but I would have hoped that an independently minded newspaper would have had more respect for the rights of the accused.

Sean Lang, Sawston, Cambridgeshire

How to defuse the current emotions threatening the Lib Dems? The matter has been brought into the open and aired publicly. The Lib Dem rules need reviewing and tightening. The women involved seemed to have some catharsis. Lord Reynard remains adamantly opined that he did nothing wrong. Yet he is denied the key report requiring him to apologise. As Lord Carlile, his legal adviser, said, this is contrary to natural justice. Of course this is unfair and unreasonable. He must see what is being said of him.

Maybe it is time for quiet reflection or some long walks alone. The Lib Dem opposition in the Lords has been the only real bulwark to the worst excesses of right-wing Toryism. Allowing this festering boil to further damage the Lib Dems is pointless and dangerous.

Justice has been done as far as it can be; attentions are better focused now on the Tories’ naked politics to win power in 2015 with such cheap point-scoring as a £7 minimum wage while reducing higher rate tax from 50p to 45p – which gives £100,000 earners a mere £3,000 or so for doing nothing.       

End of story? I hope so.

Keith W D Jago, Brighton

Thatcher house and Tory values

The revelation that Baroness Thatcher’s home in Chester Square, London, will be placed on the open market (“Yours for £12m”, 18 January) alluded to the claim that the property was owned by an offshore trust registered in the British Virgin Islands, thus avoiding inheritance tax. Surely this is not the same “blessed Margaret” who preached Victorian values, saying that the Victorian era was the era of “selflessness and benefaction”.

How is it that someone who may have deliberately avoided paying money into the state coffers should be rewarded with a title, a pension and a state funeral? No wonder that there are feelings of disaffection and incredulity among many hard-working and hard-taxed sections of the public.

It is about time that the Government made attempts to improve social cohesion by introducing measures to prevent tax avoidance, to complement the measures being taken to lower the benefit budget.

Dr David Bartlett , Ilkley, West Yorkshire

Is anybody surprised to read that Margaret Thatcher’s house in Chester Square “being registered in the British Virgin Islands, was effectively outside the will” and she “may have legally avoided millions in inheritance tax by keeping a chunk of her fortune off-shore”?

It emphasises that “We are all in it together” is no more than a cynical rendering of her saying that “there is no such thing as society”. It remains a grab-what-you-can society and, I suspect, it always will be under the Tories.

Charles Bidwell, Oxford

No scope for today’s working-class heroes

It’s not just “vanishing acting opportunities” that Stephen McGann should be highlighting (“Estate kids like me aren’t getting chances, says actor”, 21 January). Class divisions are ever greater and the odds are stacked against a child becoming successful in any career without the background of privilege.

People with a private education make up the majority of the Commons front benches, clog up the music charts and run corporations. Decades ago, it did seem possible that talent and hard work led to fame and fortune.

Have the working classes lost all aspiration to follow their dreams or is it that the old school tie network is now a necessity for success? We need more working-class heroes. 

Angela Elliott, Hundleby, Lincolnshire

Whether compulsory or not, it does make sense for job seekers to have to study basic skills in maths and English if they don’t already have the appropriate certificates. But with no new jobs being created and graduates unable to get work, let no one think that what the Labour spokeswoman is saying will have a positive effect in getting people back into employment.

Tim Mickleburgh, Grimsby

When you really need a lawyer

H Trevor Jones (letter, 13 January) asks why we still need legal aid when we have independent judges and randomly selected juries. There are several reasons.

First, article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires that a person accused of a crime be given access to legal representation.

Second, without legal training a person will not be able to subpoena witnesses, question witnesses, or know which questions or evidence is not admissible. Thus “simply tell their own story truthfully” isn’t enough to ensure that an innocent person will be found innocent, especially when a witness is falsely testifying against them or the police are trying to frame them.

Third, it has been demonstrated in the USA that if people get poor legal representation they are substantially more likely to be imprisoned, even if they’re innocent. After being exonerated they will be eligible for a substantial amount of compensation. Failing to give people proper legal representation has a great financial and human cost.

Thomas Wiggins, Wokingham, Berkshire

Bumps and scrapes of childhood

A very moving letter (21 January) from Stephen Crake in Beijing. Of course there are dangers in allowing children to play in the street or even in the fields and woods. I remember childhood playfellows suffering broken bones and proudly showing off black eyes.

But I am sure they, and I, would have preferred this to being confined to the house all day long. Bring back the skipping ropes, the cookers, even the whips and tops, allow children to climb trees, and let them take some risks.

Bill Fletcher, Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Well-watered garden

If Eric Pickles and the Conservatives are planning to site one of their “garden cities” at Yalding, Kent (news, 20 January) it is likely to contain an extremely big water feature.

Shane Malhotra, Maidstone, Kent

No way off the grid

Seems churlish to rain on Bob Gilmurray’s freedom parade (letter, 21 January) but there is no escape. On his travels he has appeared on probably hundreds of CCTV cameras.

Trevor Beaumont , Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

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