Letters: The same old Tory game

It's the same old Tory game of blaming the 'feckless' poor
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The Independent Online

Sir: Johann Hari gets it right so often it is scary ("Cameron a progressive? I don't think so", 12 May). David Cameron's focus on social justice is the same Conservative prescription as always, based on two types of poor.

There are the upwardly mobile, employed, thrifty poor who are married and therefore benefit from tax cuts. They are the sort of people who need a hand to lift themselves out of poverty. They don't need redistribution of wealth, they need to be allowed to keep more of what they earn. They benefited from the 10p tax rate and that is why Cameron is suddenly concerned about it.

Then we have the "feckless" poor. This group are poor, according to Tories, because they have too many children, they get divorced (and therefore have no strong father figure), they take drugs and commit crime.

Cameron's world is a world of privilege from birth, of top public schools, jobs advising the most disastrous Chancellor for generations, a seat in Parliament and, off the back of a speech, you become Tory leader. He really does see drugs, crime and divorce as causes of poverty, the choices of people who lack self-discipline. If he didn't see it that way, he would be faced with the only possible alternative: that these people are crushed by a system that excludes them while rewarding people like Cameron for simply being born, and that the only way for them to be better off is to take money away from the better off and give it to them.

You say poverty: he says drugs, crime and family breakdown. People can then blame the poor for their own desperate situation, just as the Tories of the 1980s talked incessantly about single mothers and benefit scroungers, whilst enabling the "deserving poor" to buy their council houses. Cameron's views would fit right in with Victorian England, though his presentation is cutting edge. It's the same old Tory siren voice – vote for us and you won't have to subsidise these idle, feckless chavs.

Mike Hall

Gosport, Hampshire

Abortion: ideologies put before people

Sir: On reading the predictably polarised letters by Mary Pimm and Fr John McCallion (10 May), so typical of the abortion standoff, I felt really depressed.

Fr McCallion would rather see me married off to a clearly unsuitable partner than give me the choice of living a free and happy life on my own with or without my baby. On the other side of the debate, but no less disturbing, is Mary Pimm's blanket dismissal of all foetal development research as irrelevant. For Ms Pimm, the humanity or personhood or pain threshold of an individual at the embryonic or foetal stage of life must be ignored at all costs, for fear that if we dare to address this painful matter, we will give away all the equality for which we have been so desperately fighting for all these years.

I believe that more contributions to the debate must be made by the centre ground, to prevent this important legal decision on the beginning of personhood being routinely abused by those who are determined to put ideology first, and other people's wellbeing later.

I have been through an unplanned pregnancy and its consequences myself. I'm not telling you what I did, in case one side or the other claims me for their "cause".

Sarah Hawkins

Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire

Sir: The suggestion from Fr John McCallion that those in favour of a woman's right to choose abortion up to the legal time limit are about to round, twelve-bore in hand, on anyone eligible for a Saga holiday, rejected by Mensa, or afflicted with a slightly gammy leg, is a foul and groundless slur invented by a lobby group that seems prepared to stoop to any level to smear its opponents and assert its dogma.

Perhaps we should pause to remember that this is the same organisation that has withdrawn support from Amnesty, because Amnesty prefers not to force rape victims to carry the progeny of their violation to full term.

Mike Lim

Bolton, Greater Manchester

No technological quick fix for climate

Sir: Rosalind Azouzi (Aerospace supplement, 8 May) argues compellingly for investment in young scientists and engineers, so that they can play a role in making aviation "greener". She also correctly states that "climate change is one of the most important issues affecting the world today and the environmental challenge is aviation's biggest yet". As one struggling to employ high-quality scientists and engineers in the climate science discipline, I heartily applaud both sentiments.

However, Ms Azouzi's article was somewhat one-sided, exhorting us to invest in technological solutions, whereas it has been recently shown by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report that, while technology is expected to deliver significant improved fuel efficiencies over the next decades, "without policy intervention, projected annual improvements in aircraft fuel efficiency of the order of 1 to 2 per cent will be surpassed by annual traffic growth of around 5 per cent each year, leading to an annual increase of CO2 emissions of 3 to 4 per cent per year."

Ms Azouzi cites the example of biofuels: even if they were a good idea (and there is a growing body of scientific and sociological data that they aren't), an aircraft engine is the most illogical place to use them, given the very stringent safety standards necessary for aviation fuel.

Technology is not a panacea for solving climate-change problems (for most sectors). Hard decisions are necessary that involve absolute reductions of CO2, and these need to be achieved rather quickly if we are to avoid dangerous climate change. If we are to stabilise climate at no more than a 2 degree Celsius increase by 2100 (a tough task), aviation must play its role and technology alone will not deliver this.

Professor David S Lee

Director, Centre for Air Transport and the Environment, Manchester Metropolitan University

Tax breaks and help for the world's poor

Sir: Few will doubt the sincerity of Christian Aid's motives in drawing attention to child poverty in developing countries ("Tax evasion 'costs lives of 5.6m children' ", 12 May) but the charity misrepresents some basic facts about CDC, the UK development finance institution.

It is true that CDC does not pay tax in the UK on its profits, but this has nothing to do with tax havens. It is because the company is exempt from paying corporation tax under UK law. The 400 promising companies the UK has invested in through CDC do pay millions of dollars in taxes to their local governments.

Richard Laing

Chief Executive, CDC Group Plc, London SW1

Hard truths about care of the elderly

Sir: Reform of the social care system is critical. Failure to act now means problems for the future, with more people denied the care they need because of financial constraints. The Government is making the right noises, but we urgently need to see this made a spending priority. The Right Care Right Deal campaign believes a partnership model of funding – as recommended by the Kings Fund – is the best way to ensure a fair system that will stand the test of time.

At present, few people know at first hand the full extent of the chaos within long-term care. As our population ages, more and more will be confronted with this uncomfortable truth. And you can see the anxiety already. Now is the time to discuss honestly and openly about making the system work for all.

We must be brave enough to put every aspect of the current model under the microscope. There must be a national debate, including not only politicians and policy makers, but also the general public. The new consultation, and the resulting Green Paper, are about nothing less than the quality of our lives in an ageing society.

Paul Cann

Director of Policy, Help the Aged; Imelda Redmond, Chief Executive, Carers UK; Stephen Burke, Chief Executive, Counsel & Care, London N1

Sir: After 10 years of a Labour government, Brown announces a crisis in social care for the elderly and disabled. What a disgrace. This crisis is of Labour's making by imposing means-testing on care and pensions and transferring care costs from income tax and National Insurance to council tax.

This "consultation" will be a softening up for more cuts, more means-testing and more taxation. Brown will do what he always does: make things so complicated that no one will understand what is going on.

A National Care Service should be set up, funded by the Treasury to run in parallel with the NHS. It should be taken out of the hands of local authorities so that everyone gets the same.

Malcolm Naylor

Otley, West Yorkshire

A dangerous 'peace' in the Middle East

Sir: Mahar Othman (letter, 12 May) says Hamas told Jimmy Carter that it would accept peace. Let's just remember the terms of that peace: Israel returns all the land gained in the 1967 war; gets rid of all settlements (so that Palestinians have all their land to themselves); and allows all the Palestinian refugees a right of return (so that either now or very soon the Palestinians will have a majority in Israel and there will be no Jewish state). In effect their terms are peace, but not as long as Israel exists.

As a Jew living outside Israel, I think it is important we have somewhere safe to go the next time someone tries to exterminate us. When Hamas is programming its children to hate the Jews and to be martyrs for its cause, it might not be time to trust them yet.

James Goldman

London NW4

Sir: Donald Macintyre in "Israel: from independence to intifada" (8 May) is right to draw attention to "the myth that Palestinians left [their homes] merely because they were ordered to do so by Arab leaders".

Yitzhak Rabin, the former Prime Minister, was a military commander during the fighting in 1948. After taking the Arab towns of Ramleh and Lydda (both of which had been allotted to the Palestinians by the UN partition plan), he recorded that: "I agreed [with Ben Gurion] that it was essential to drive the inhabitants out . . . The population did not leave willingly. There was no way of avoiding force in order to make the inhabitants march the 10 to 15 miles . . ." (The New York Times, 23 October 1979).

One of those expelled on this occasion was George Habash, years later the leader of the terrorist organisation PFLP.

David Simmonds

Epping, Essex

Wealthy children deserve privacy

Sir: My daughter recently wrote a short report about a pre-school event for our local news-sheet. She included a snapshot of the children who took part. In order to have this printed, she had to get permission from the parents of every child in the picture.

It is disgraceful that J K Rowling, has been driven to such lengths to afford her son the standard protection that every "normal" child already enjoys. I was disappointed that Richard Ingrams (10 May) seems to think that because of J K Rowling's "vast fortune", she is not entitled to "justice for all". He has gone right off the mark, by focusing on the wealth of the parents instead of the rights of the child.

Norah Grant

Lochinver, Sutherland


Alarming inflation

Sir: You publish an entire article on inflation without mentioning the inadequacy of the Consumer Price Index and the Retail Price Index. For millions living on incomes below the average these measures are a joke. All those who spend a high proportion of their income on food, heating, electricity, petrol, council tax, telephone, house repairs, rent and mortgages find that their disposable income is disappearing at an alarming rate. When we read the CPI and RPI figures we despair .

Victor Baynes


Fruit pickers' wages

Sir: There is a very simple solution to the problem of unpicked fruit (report, 12 May) that doesn't require the importation of cheap immigrant labour: pay indigenous workers a decent wage. It is disappointing that, under cover of pro-immigration political correctness, and a quasi-religious attachment to the discredited ideology of multiculturalism, the "liberal-left" should be acting as useful idiots in the first instance for greedy farmers (and other small businessmen) at home and ultimately for the global capitalists of the free-market right in the wider world.

Neil Saunders

Dover, Kent

The price of houses

Sir: Level-headed as Stephen King is, there are two things to add to his analysis of the housing market (12 May). He says there is more to houses "than just bricks and mortar". Too right: there is the land it stands on, which in property hot spots is worth much more than the building. The land value, costing nothing to produce, is purely inflationary. Mr King argues that that UK house prices are bound to rise because "there's only a limited amount of land". Currently one of the biggest (collapsed) housing bubbles is in Australia.

D B C Reed


Vote for Britain

Sir: In all the debate over what Wendy Alexander may or may not have meant, there is one thing on which most seem agreed. It is that Alex Salmond is delaying calling a referendum because he thinks he would stand a better chance of success with a Conservative government at Westminster. The English electorate would do well to bear in mind that the return of David Cameron as Prime Minister would greatly increase the likelihood of the break-up of the United Kingdom. That seems to me to be a compelling enough reason not to vote Conservative.

Chris Sexton,

Crowthorne, Berkshire

Toll of gorillas

Sir: Claire Soares finds it hard to understand why the deaths of five mountain gorillas is worthy of more reporting than the daily death toll in the same region of 1,200 humans (Media, 12 May). The loss of five individuals means that one person was responsible for killing 0.7 per cent of the world's wild population of mountain gorillas. I'm sure that if one individual were to kill 0.7 per cent of the human population (46,200,000 or thereabouts) in one day it would be headline news around the world.

Paul Maxwell

Hove, East Sussex