At a party recently with friends, all similar to myself (early fifties, working-class background, professional graduates, Labour voters), I confessed that I had voted Lib Dem at the last election, and one by one the others did too.
We did so for the same reasons. We saw the Lib Dem promises as a more left-wing manifesto than that offered by the Labour Party. We could not see anyone in the Labour Party who was like us.
My great-grandfather died canvassing for the emerging Labour Party. He wanted representation. His MP was rich and lived elsewhere. He wanted someone to stand up and complain about his poverty, about his zero-hours contract on the docks and about the desperate prospects for his children.
The result was that my grandparents were represented by Bessie Braddock, a local woman whom they could trust would stand up for them.
My parents had Eric Heffer who worked on the building sites with my dad.
I had Terry Fields, a workers’ MP on a worker’s wage. Who will my son have? The rumour is Euan Blair: rich and from elsewhere, typical of the modern Labour MP – looks and sounds good on TV but no idea of what it is like to struggle.
So I have been disenfranchised. I will never vote Lib Dem again. Like my friends, I was conned. I will never vote Ukip but can see why people do. They appear “real”.
I haven’t left the Labour Party, the Labour Party has been taken from me and my people by middle-class people who thought they knew what was good for us.
We have come full circle. My graduate children are working in coffee shops and bars on zero-hours contracts with no rights, each with a personal debt that is bigger than my mortgage at their age and no effective trade union to stand up for them.
Meanwhile the rich get richer. How did that happen after 13 years of a Labour government?
We need to throw this lot out and start all over again.
Tony Packwood, Liverpool
While I applaud the Labour Party’s promise to educate our young people on the importance of voting (“Labour’s class action to raise voting rates”, 6 June), it will be of little use unless trust in our political process is restored.
The electorate needs to be assured that casting a vote is more than just a choice between varying degrees of evil.
A promise of a law to allow constituents to recall an MP would be a good first step to achieving greater confidence that politicians will represent the will of the people, not their own self-interest.
Pete Rowberry, Saxmundham, Suffolk
Let the grass grow – to feed the sparrows
Charlie Smith in Dulwich (letter, 4 June) rightly welcomes the chirp of his sparrows, and I believe he’s correct in his observation that numbers appear to be rising. There has been an almost universal decline.
Wales has proved to be the exception. Maybe it’s the continuation of traditional farming practices; we are not entirely sure.
The RSPB is one of the many organisations investigating the decline of the house sparrow. No one has yet established the cause or, more probably, causes, of their dramatic drop in numbers. However, we do know that a lack of the right food and a lack of nesting places are contributory factors.
Young sparrows need plenty of protein, and older sparrows crave carbohydrate. The demise of the sparrow reflects the paucity of insects and seed in the environment, so get messy outdoors and let the grass literally grow under your feet and go to seed.
We have anecdotal evidence within London that the chirpy Cockney sparrow is starting to rally. Great effort is being made by ourselves, local authorities, organisations such as London Underground and other conservation NGOs to restore natural food availability in the capital.
Sparrows, bats, bees and butterflies will benefit, and the colours and sounds of nature will enrich Londoners’ lives.
As for The Independent’s offer of a reward for whoever reveals what’s behind the population collapse of the house sparrow, I suspect it will remain unclaimed, as we are now aware that there is a hugely complex web of factors driving a downwards trend of as much as 60 per cent of our UK wildlife.
Sorry to end on such a negative note, but we are all doing too little too late to sustain our green and pleasant land.
Tim Webb, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds , London SW1
There seems no shortage of sparrows in this area of the North York Moors. We have two sparrow families nesting in the house tiles and at least two more families in next door’s hedge. And many other villagers have reported plenty of sparrow activity.
We regularly, breakfast time and early evening, have at least six to eight on the feeding station, and another 10 waiting their turn on the fence. They make a lot of noise, but we spend many happy hours watching them.
Christine Wainwright, Goathland, Yorkshire
New flag needed for today’s England
Soon we will see England flags fluttering proudly from cars as our heroic football team sets out in Brazil to bring the World Cup back to the home of football.
But in this outburst of commendable patriotism, we must not forget that peace-loving Muslims living among us could well be offended by the flag of St George. Not only is it associated with the bloodthirsty Crusaders as they raped, murdered and pillaged their way to the Holy Land, but in recent times the flag has also been hijacked by far-right political parties.
Therefore, to avoid stirring up racial resentment, to make the flag more inclusive and to show we are a truly multicultural society, might it not be appropriate to incorporate an Islamic symbol such as a crescent into the top left corner?
Then Muslims could happily join in cheering Steven Gerrard and the lads. Come on, England!
Charles Garth, Ampthill, Bedfordshire
Yes, we boomers were lucky
I was born in 1944 and I regard myself both as a baby boomer and lucky. Jane Jakeman (letter, 6 June) got it right when she argued that pre-Thatcher we voted for a decent equitable society, where employers were encouraged to look after their staff, rather than screw them to the deck, as many do now.
It is correct that only 10 per cent went to university, but many of us, including me, were taught at a polytechnic, where the employer paid our tuition fee and paid for day release
When we left school we found there were plenty of jobs; we needed only basic qualifications to get them. Nurses learnt their trade in real hospitals dealing with real people, and while they were not well paid, they were at least earning while they were learning. Nowadays, they practice on dummies while at university, have learnt nothing about life and graduate with huge debts.
Students today leave university to find their are few decent jobs to compensate them for all their efforts, and while many will not earn enough to repay their student loan, it is a millstone round their neck. We were, indeed, a lucky generation. Today’s young people will only be able to survive if they went to a top university or have parents able to pay off their student loan.
Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey
Democracy is being undermined
Congratulations are in order: in unveiling proposals whereby frackers will not need to seek the permission of those residing above ground before drilling beneath them, David Cameron has become the first Prime Minister in history both figuratively and literally to undermine the democratic processes of this country.
Julian Self, Wolverton, Milton Keynes
Now ‘now then’ needs to be reclaimed, then
Now then, sir. It’s disappointing that “Now then” reminds Lin Hawkins (letter, 6 June) of Jimmy Savile. It didn’t occur to me for a minute that it would, and if it is a common view, then remedial action is imperative. The battle to reclaim “Now then” from the clutches of Savile starts now. Reight?
Mark Redhead, Oxford
“Now then” may have Lin Hawkins thinking of Jimmy Savile, but I will always associate it with Fred Trueman. In cardigan and tie, smoking his pipe and pint in hand, he would open each episode of the 1970s Yorkshire TV series Indoor League with a brusque “Na’ then” as he introduced the viewer to the serious business of darts, bar billiards and arm wrestling.
Bill Cook, London N11
‘Honour’ and ‘killing’ have no connection
Please stop the use of the disgusting phrase “honour killing”. This euphemism suggests a justification for what is simply plain, misogynistic murder.
Ken Fletcher, Liuzhou, China