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Friday 20 July 2012
Letters: The nightmare of Blair's return
Matthew Norman contemplates the awful prospect of Tony Blair's re-installation in this country ("Please don't let us forget why Blair is a pariah in his own land", 18 July).
In the years since his resignation as prime minister, Blair has been wining and dining as our Middle East Envoy. This title implies that somebody with authority had the good idea of sending him out of the country.
It seems that Blair now desires to relaunch himself in British politics. This implies that somebody with authority proposes to call him back.
Do you, perchance, know who it is so we might contact them with the suggestion that this might not be a good idea?
Matthew Norman's welcome article raises interesting issues. One of these is the apparent absence of any ethical dimension to public life.
Lord O'Donnell blocks access to correspondence between Bush and Blair because it would incommode them as private individuals; investigating the instigation of a catastrophic war has to take second place to this.
Bankers commit criminal acts with great insouciance. The Prime Minister treats judicial process with contempt by treating the Leveson Inquiry to a display of amnesia so spectacular it should be provoking widespread discussion of whether he is intellectually fit for high office.
And Michael Gove is going to allow schools to teach creationism as though it were scientifically valid.
I don't regard Blair as a pariah in this land. The invasion of Iraq was a terrible error but it arose from stupidity rather than evil.
I really think that Blair imagined himself walking down Bagdad High Street with rose petals showering down on him for getting rid of a blood-soaked dictator, who was busy killing his own people.
If he knew any history, he should have realised that any military involvement in the Middle East that does not effect our vital national interest is bound to be counter-productive.
Far better to do what is happening with Assad. Pass a few pointless resolutions at the UN and bleat very loudly. Then let the inhabitants sort it out. It might not be brave but it is, at least, sensible.
I enjoyed Matthew Norman's Chilcot article. But I looked askance at the little or no prominence given these days to the role of Alastair Campbell as Mr Tony's henchman and his considerable success in being received with deference if not affection in media circles.
Planning, preparing, initiating or waging a war of aggression is a prosecutable crime under Principle VI of the 1946 Nuremburg Principles.
George Monbiot is offering a reward of almost £10,000 for the arrest of Tony Blair, a bounty which remains open until he is officially prosecuted.
Police warned about problems with G4S deal
The Police Federation has long campaigned against the privatisation of policing (letters, 18, 19 July), fearing that profit-seeking companies could damage all that is good about the British police service, a service that is the envy of the world.
We take no delight in having a "We told you so" stance over the G4S Olympics security fiasco but we hope that lessons have been learnt. The Government needs to review urgently its plans to increase the involvement of companies such as G4S in policing.
Over the past week, police officers and the Armed Forces have been drafted in to fill the gap left by the failure of G4S to recruit and train enough security personnel. But the police service and Armed Forces have already had their numbers slashed as the Government implements its budget cuts. Now we have had to step in to clear up the mess, stretching our own reduced resources even further.
As your letter-writer, Martin Deighton, points out, the money paid to G4S would have been better spent on policing, and we would have delivered a safe and secure Games without this last-minute crisis.
We have concerns not just about the lack of security staff provided by G4S but also the quality of those they have supplied. Our officers are discovering that many do not even possess the basic skills needed for the jobs they have been recruited to do.
The professional officers I represent will ensure a safe Games for all. And perhaps those in government will spend some time reflecting on where this went wrong.
Chairman, West Midlands Police Federation
If looking for the cause of the security debacle, cast your mind back to the time when the bid to stage the Games was constructed. Then, the number of events and their venues must (or should) have been known and the size of the security problem must have been clear.
It should also have been obvious that the only answer to the problem was for security to be provided by existing, fully trained and disciplined volunteers who had their own well-tried organisations, proven team-effectiveness and efficiency and the motivation to perform their tasks in a way that would make the country proud of them.
I refer to the police and the Armed Services with their reserves, possibly supplemented where appropriate by senior Scout, Guide and cadet forces.
Entrusting security of an event of this size and importance to a commercial firm which had no readily available manpower and one that would maximise profit from the exercise was, without doubt, an act of madness. National events such as this should be looked after by public services, not commercial firms.
Geoff S Harris
David Winnick's interrogation of Nick Buckles at the Home Affairs Select Committee was threatening and distasteful. In trying to insist that Mr Buckles answer yes or no to the "humiliating shambles" question he was using tactics reminiscent of the McCarthy committee.
The purpose of the committee's enquiries is to find out what went, or is going, wrong and find what can be done to put it right. It is not to intimidate witnesses and attempt to put words in their mouths.
Yet another clever CEO has fooled the vainglorious MPs who were hoping for a lynching.
The performance of Nick Buckles deserved an Oscar. His coy agreement to pay for the extra Armed Forces and police was "forced" out of him by the probing MPs; I wonder how he kept a straight face.
He knew exactly what he was doing, and he manipulated the naïve MPs in a masterful fashion to save his company.
We ought to be grateful that G4S failed to deliver the numbers it had committed to or we might never have known that it was contracted to supply 10,400 security guards for £280m, an average cost of some £27,000 for six weeks' work.
I'd certainly like to know which custodian of the public purse, whether politician or civil servant, judged this to be good value for taxpayer money.
How banks meet lending targets
My brother-in-law owns a financially sound, road-haulage business. He has a needed overdraft with a local branch of a national bank; his limit has just been halved. So was that of a friend who had similar problems.
He found two colleagues, running cash-rich companies which never use their overdraft facility, who had their overdraft limits doubled. Thus do the banks meet government lending targets by lending less to those who need it while "lending" more to those who don't. Clever, eh?
Gove spells out literacy aims
The aims of Michael Gove, highlighted in Richard Garner's article (7 July), need serious consideration. These aims are to raise literacy levels throughout the schools of England, possibly resulting in a grading of all students and ranking them from one to 200,000-plus Accuracy in spelling is a standard that must be adhered to.
As was shown in the English Spelling Society's surveys in the UK and USA, there is a hardcore, 20 per cent, who are functionally illiterate, in that they cannot complete a CV or fill forms without help. The 2009 survey in the USA confirmed this is an Anglophone issue, perhaps not surprising when one considers how irregular a spelling system English suffers from, compared with other Indo-European languages.
This is a terrible waste, and anything that can reduce this hard core of functional illiteracy is to be welcomed.
Chair, The English Spelling Society, London SW5
Backward march of education
When I was at Queen Mary's High School, Walsall, in the 1940s, we were taught catastrophism, special creation, and Darwin's theory of evolution in our biology lessons, and allowed to make our choice among these theories (letters, 18, 19 July). It is interesting to see how far "education" has devel oped in 70 years.
As a secular newspaper you naturally oppose creationism. The problem is that because it describes past events, evolution cannot be "proved" in the way theories such as relativity can. Contrary to the assertion by Dave Warbis (letters, 19 July), the very existence of matter, as yet unexplained by science, does allow for a creator in another dimension. But this does not stop me opposing both autocratic religion and "faith" (religious) schools.
Dr Peter J W Smith
Halifax, West Yorkshire
In his letter about particle accelerators (7 July) Tim Burrett states that "the magnets bend the motion of the protons into an approximately circular track". He adds: "The particle velocity changes very little in these accelerators". Velocity is a vector quantity. It has magnitude (speed) and direction. In circular motion the proton's speed might not change but the direction does, therefore it is accelerating. It's called centripetal acceleration, a concept every young physics student has to comprehend. The name "accelerator" is not a misnomer.
Paul McCartney is a very talented and clever musician who has written some very enjoyable songs (Dominic Lawson, 17 July). But the music he writes is easy listening. It is not difficult or demanding in the way that, say, a symphony by Beethoven is. I love many Beatles songs. They are good to relax to. But I know that great works of classical music are, ultimately, more sophisticated and fulfilling.
Bank of Safety?
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