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Friday 12 October 2012
Letters: The strange rules of life in Toryland
Welcome to Toryland, as portrayed in the Conservative Party conference coverage: you arise aspirationally "at the crack of dawn" to go to work and spend three hours intently scrutinising each house for drawn curtains, a sure sign that a family of 45 claiming £75,000 a week in benefits lies within; you reach work and promptly sign away your rights against unfair dismissal and redundancy in return for 10p in shares; you go home to your "hard-working family" (you are not single) and sit, armed with howitzer and cudgel, in the strenuous hope that somebody will burgle your house so you can brutally murder them.
No reader of your newspaper would gain any impression of why the present Government is in office or what it is trying to achieve. They would only learn that you do not support it.
This country is faced with at least 12 strategic problems, which decades of idealistic meddling have failed to understand, let alone address: a public deficit equal (in 2010) to 25 per cent of public income; a public education system large sectors of which are failing; an NHS which is (or was) not accountable to its patients; rapid population growth largely focused on the south-east; a business environment insufficiently supportive of small and medium-sized entrepreneurs; a banking system not sufficiently supportive of business; a welfare system insufficiently focused on helping people to be self-reliant; imbalance of economic growth between regions; European legislation which exceeds its legitimate mandate; excessive focus on the European market compared to growing markets elsewhere; lack of a sustainable source of energy; widespread national protectionism of the service industries.
Any four of these tasks would challenge a government of above-average competence. You attack the Conservatives on every detail and fail to discern that the Labour Party, with its fascination with large centralised bureaucracies, has little or nothing to offer.
Anthony C Pick
Prime Minister David Cameron's Conference speech was such a dispiriting and enfeebling affair that I'm beginning to worry about his state of mind.
Yes, we know that we're in a hole. Having found ourselves here, there is very little point in ruminating about how deep and dark and depressing that hole is. It would be far better to remember that we have been in deep holes before, and yet we have always managed to find our way out of them.
This is exactly where Boris Johnson scores so highly. Whatever the problem, whatever the challenge... he makes light of it and dismisses temporary difficulties with a well-chosen quip or an encouraging historical reference.
Which of these two approaches, we might ask ourselves, is more likely to bring about a return of confidence to the hard-pressed citizens of this beleaguered nation? For me, it has to be Boris Johnson's joviality and his ability to laugh in the face of defeat.
You can't have a 'husband' unless you are a 'wife'
I am reluctant to disagree with Elton John, who has used his fame and fortune to such good charitable effect, but in defence of the English language perhaps I dare. He is determined to describe the charming David Furnish as his "husband" and to "marry" him ("David is my husband", 9 October). According to the OED this is to presume his own status as a "wife". Two husbands do not a marriage make. I find it surprising that he wants to assume such old-fashioned, and in this case, irrelevant words.
My late partner Alex and I, who played some small part in campaigning for civil partnership rights which secured us all the equality we need, would have found it laughable to be playing "husbands and wives"; and I think the current legislation passed into law as quickly as it did because of the omission of the words husband, wife and marriage, whereas "civil partnership" was quickly accepted.
I must admit I opened Peaches Geldof's personal reflection on gay marriage (10 October) with some trepidation, but after reading it I have newfound respect for her. It is great to read support for gay marriage from a straight person, and it is so important, because as long as marriage is a privilege for a select part of the population, we are all – straight, gay and in between – diminished. I hope that Peaches' prediction, that the subjugation of the LGBT community will be looked back on as cruel and futile, does come to pass.
I am fed up to the back teeth with sanctimonious statements about heterosexual marriage and that children have a right to expect both parents to play their part in their upbringing.
What about us single parents, widows, widowers, divorcees? We are always left out of the picture.
I found that complementary roles were always available outside the immediate family circle and they are also there for gay couples.
Lord Carey is on good historical ground for worrying that gay marriage may lead to a "Third Reich", while perhaps not in the way he implied.
The liberal attitude to homosexuality in the Weimar Republic doubtless influenced many to support Hitler's call for a return to traditional values in 1932. After the Jews, homosexuals were among the most persecuted groups under the Nazis. One must hope that the next Archbishop of Canterbury will not have to assume the title of "Reichsbischof"!
The problem with gay marriage is not the devaluation of holy wedlock (Letters, 10 October), but what husbands and husbands and wives and wives will be called. In heterosexual marriages the name of the male of the species is imposed upon the female, unless she digs in her heels.
In gay marriage will one gay Mr or lesbian Ms adopt the name of the other? What's the titular advantage of gay marriage? How will the master of ceremonies at the Equalities Ball announce the late arrival of Sir Elton John and Mr David Furnish? Hardly Sir Elton and Lady John. Even if the Queen re-knights Sir Elton John as Sir Elton John-Furnish, what will we call his better half? What is the masculine form of "Lady"?
Oh, and while we are talking about titles and sexual equality, why does the missis of a knighted mister automatically become "Lady", while the husband of a Dame remains plain "Mr"?
It's not just cyclists who are doped
Usada is rather nauseatingly preening itself in finally having got their man, but it is hyperbole in the extreme to call it "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen" ("Armstrong: the verdict", 11 October).
They clearly have never heard of the East German sports federation, not to mention more than a few in their own backyard; and I wonder what they would find if they really turned up the heat on, for example, American football? Armstrong has been singled out; he did not win seven successive Tours because he took drugs – they all did and he just happened to be the hardest in the hardest competition of them all.
And let's not pillory cycling: there is no such thing as a clean athlete, there are only athletes who have never been caught! Cycling is one of the few sports to try to do something about it.
Myths about badgers and TB
The suggestion in your leading article of 8 October that the planned pilot culls of badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset are designed to test whether "mass badger slaughter will halt the spread of the disease" is unhelpfully loose and inaccurate. Badgers are not the source of bovine TB but just one of the hosts of the causative organism, Mycobactrium bovis; the other major host is cattle, and three-quarters or more of TB cases are attributed to spread from other cattle. So even eliminating all badgers (which the pilot culls cannot achieve anyway) wouldn't get near halting the spread of the disease.
Ancient Hebrew crime solutions
The problem of legislating for the permitted amount of force a householder may use against an intruder is not new. Some 3,000 years ago, the Hebrews enacted that if a thief was found breaking in at night and the householder struck him so that he died, he was not liable for murder: however if the entry was by day, then he was liable for the intruder's death (Exodus 22).
The even older Mesopotamian Laws of Eshnunna similarly distinguished between illegal entry by night and by day. While in the former the intruder was to be executed, in the latter he is fined. Is this distinction something Mr Grayling should consider?
Irish wind farms
There is a certain attraction in this Government's proposal to build wind farms in the Irish Republic. Not only will this please their windmill-hating rural nimby voters, but also, happily, Ireland has encouraged the desecration of almost all its beautiful windy coastline with an unending swathe of bungalows of spectacular size and ugliness, each accompanied by a sweeping suburban-style access road and large hard-standing.
ince the viability of wind-farms is often undermined by the cost and intrusiveness of the access roads and turbine bases we can be grateful that both have already been installed at no cost to the taxpayer.
I'm all in favour of Osborne's plans for employees to be allowed to give up their rights to claim redundancy and unfair dismissal in exchange for shares. But only if companies running such schemes are bound by law to include every member of senior management in the same scheme. Just to make sure we are all in it together.
Both David Cameron and Ed Miliband performed well at conference. Both speeches were witty and entertainingly delivered by two articulate and intelligent party leaders. We should celebrate the fact that the art of rhetoric is alive and well among our top parliamentarians, irrespective of our personal political peccadillos.
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