Letters: The politics of purchase

Wielding purse-power in the local shops

Related Topics

Sir: I was thrilled to read your article on the woman who has given up supermarkets for Lent (report 19 February), partly because I undertook the same promise last year. I am unable to deprive myself of Sainsbury's, Tesco's et al again this year, however, as come Easter Sunday 2006 I had no inclination to go back to supermarket shopping and have yet to do so.

The main myth of shopping locally is that it is expensive: in fact when local shopkeepers get to know you there are often small discounts on the bill. Indeed, shopping in small shops encourages healthier eating as fruit and vegetables are cheaper than in the supermarket while meat and snacks are dearer. My fiancé and I are lucky; we live on a high street blessed with a Portuguese delicatessen, a Lebanese supermarket and two fruit stalls whose proprietors have become familiar faces over the last 12 months. I encourage other residents of Kentish Town to try them out, as so many already do, so that our high street never resembles the supermarket-dominated parade as do many others.

In an affluent society changes are made for the better by the power of purse, not of petition. By supporting Italian or Turkish cafés rather than Starbucks, Lebanese supermarkets over Marks and Spencer, and Oxfam clothes shops in lieu of Gap, an inaudible but increasingly powerful statement is made about community identity, acceptance of other cultures, and even world political issues. I started by only buying coffee from a family-run Italian shop and now support farmers in Palestine through purchasing their olive oil. I am encouraged that more people are taking up this pledge, particularly those, like me, in their early 20s; I wish Ms Austin the best of luck.



Young people need apprenticeships

Sir: I read Deborah Orr (Opinion, 14 February) with much interest, particularly the part about children's expectation of being in low-skill employment. A remedy would be for the Government to abandon the idea of compelling all youngsters to stay at school until they are 18 and pour the money instead into modern apprenticeships. As a recently retired teacher I can tell you that the the idea of earning while you are learning is a popular option for a great many youngsters.

Apprenticeships are so very difficult to get hold of, however, the demand far outstripping the supply. So much so that they are a closed door to those pupils who are unable to attain four GCSEs grade C or above, precisely the people who would benefit from them most.

Sadly, these days we have a worrying situation of a glut of graduates with no vocational qualifications and huge amounts of money being wasted on sixth-form students, who have low academic capabilities and who would be much better served by learning a trade.

The only organisations that visit schools and offer career opportunities to all pupils regardless of academic ability are the armed forces, a practise that is, I believe, to end soon.

It should be the absolute right of every young citizen, whatever their academic ability, to be given the opportunity at least of learning a proper trade. After all, do we really care if the person who plumbs in our washing machine was rubbish at algebra, or if our chef never really understood a word of Shakespeare.



Sir: Mary Dejevsky (Opinion, 15 February), states: "For one parent to stay at home has become a luxury that only those who are entirely dependent on state benefits or one of a high-earning couple can afford.."

I am a stay-at-home mum and I am often told how "lucky" I am as if we were living on a huge income that allowed for me to sit at home eating bonbons. Being a mum is not a luxury. We survive on one modest income, and it's the toughest job I've ever done, but we consider my role as a full-time mother to be a necessity for the happiness and well-being of our whole family.

The inevitable low-paid part-time work, the cost of travelling to work on public transport and the cost of childcare mean that it wouldn't make a lot of difference to our income if I did go out to work, and certainly not enough to warrant paying someone else to do the one job that I'm best qualified to do - love and care for my child.



Sir: Nobody doubts that some of our young people need more guidance, more care, better education (Opinion, 19 February). But 15-year-olds do not manufacture or import guns. Nor are they the initial purchasers, though they do buy and sell them on. The same applies to drugs: they do not import the raw materials or manufacture the substances they buy on the street. As well as keeping watch to prevent more juvenile deaths at the bottom of the food chain, we need to be targeting more visibly the biggest predators in this very frightening jungle. Longer sentences for them would be a very welcome support to urban families.



Sir: About 2,500 years ago, Confucius observed, "The moral character of those in high position is the breeze, the character of those below is the grass. When the grass has the breeze upon it, it assuredly bends".

The present UK government has closely aligned its policies with those of the most violent society in the developed world; it has engaged in military adventurism; it has promoted the UK arms industry; it proposes to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons. In the light of Confucius's observation it is hardly surprising that some young people engage in street-gun violence. Indeed, in the context of the policies and activities of those "in high position" it is remarkable that our society in general remains so peaceful.



The political situation in Bangladesh

Sir: Your article "War of the dynasties leads to army rule in Bangladesh" (12 February) does scant justice to the realities on the ground. What happened in Bangladesh on 11 January was not a coup. It was the declaration of a state of emergency due to the well-known political impasse that was created by the parties, and the installation of a Caretaker Government headed by Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed, all within the parameters of the Constitution. There was no other option.

That it was the right thing to do is demonstrated by the results. The Caretaker Government has the enthusiastic support of the entire population, including the armed forces, known and lauded for its UN peace-keeping contribution, and the civil society, one of the most vibrant anywhere in the world. The measures adopted by the Caretaker Government addressing the pervasive corruption that was eating away at the vitals of the nation, and the restructuring of electoral and other political institutions thoroughly manipulated by motivated interests, have been welcomed by all, at home and abroad.

Bangladeshis deserve more dignity than the country's past politics have brought her. There cannot be and should not be a return to that sad situation that obtained prior to 11 January.



Don't blame the peasants for bird flu

Sir: Dominic Lawson's "uneducated guess" that H5N1 "stemmed from peasant farming methods" is just that (Opinion, 16 February). While he is right in saying that the vast majority of people in countries where avian flu is endemic keep chickens, he ignores the incredible growth in global factory farming and its role in producing virulent strains of avian flu.

Across the world intensive poultry production has grown by 300 per cent in the past two decades. Mr Lawson points out that in Indonesia 80 per cent of households keep poultry. Yet this only amounts to 20 per cent of the country's poultry production. The remaining 80 per cent is produced by three large poultry companies with worldwide exportation.

Avian flu in its low pathogenic form can and has existed in birds quite safely for years. However intensive farming provides the ideal breeding ground for the virus to mutate in ever more virulent, highly pathogenic strains. New strains of virus develop in a packed poultry shed and then are likely to spread to wild birds and household chickens.

While the evidence points to factory farming being the cause of H5N1, the most likely spread is, as Defra has announced, primarily down to the movement of poultry and poultry products around the world. Our desire for cheap meat is now coming back to bite us in the form of highly pathogenic strains of avian flu.



Hunting is culling by another name

Sir: John Walsh (17 February) understandably scorns the Countryside Alliance's claim that there would be more foxes if hunting were restored in full. But hunting is culling by another name, and the latter activity is approved by conservationists. Even the National Trust has reversed its decision on deer and is allowing the culling of ailing stags.

Foxes suffering, inter alia, from mange, are less likely to escape, being weaker and more easily caught. They will provide satisfaction for the hunt on the day, thus reducing the spread of contagion while allowing the healthy to survive and carry on breeding.

And, in a different way, that's how we survive pandemics. Thankfully, instead of killing off the seriously contagious, hospitals isolate them.



It's not all perfect here in Germany

Sir: Frances Wilson may well be impressed by the photo of a German library (Letters, 10 February). However the funding systems in Britain and Germany are rather different. The central library in Hamburg charges adults an annual fee of up to €45 simply to be a member, with additional charges placed on borrowing newly published books and internet usage.

Parallels can be observed here with the German healthcare system, which is often cited as an example of greatness, compared with Britain's much-abused NHS. The fact that this is funded by considerable monthly health-insurance contributions paid by individuals and companies, in addition to normal income-tax deductions, is often conveniently forgotten.



Stitched up by the good Dr Twist

Sir: The correspondence regarding GPs performing surgery (16 February) reminds me of the time, back in the 1970s, when I had the misfortune of allowing the working end of a dumper truck starting handle into my mouth. In the nearby village, Dr Twist, of Surgeon's Lane in Crich, Derbyshire, stitched my face there and then, to my everlasting gratitude. He said that if he had waited for an ambulance to take me 18 miles to the Derby Infirmary, my scars would have been permanent. He explained that he was the "James Herriott" of the human world. Even then, I was convinced that my own London GP would have passed out at the sight of blood.



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business StudiesTeacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Bu...

***Are you a Support Worker? or a Youth Worker? ***

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The RoleDue to demand we are cu...

**SEN Primary Teacher Serf Unit **

£110 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experie...

ICT Teacher - NQTs encouraged to apply

£110 - £130 per day + TBC : Randstad Education Reading: ICT Teacher needed up ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Scientists believe the discovery could lead to new treatments for loss of memory function caused by ageing and other factors  

We need a completely new approach to caring for older people

Carol Jagger

Daily catch-up: out of time, polling and immigration and old words

John Rentoul
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past