Letters: Tories' anti-Scots sentiments

Tories reveal 'nasty party' side in stirring anti-Scots sentiments
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Sir: Despite the Cameron gloss, the Conservative Party continue to show their true colours as the "nasty party" in their present opportunistic stirring of the anti-Scottish pot, "Tories are accused of endangering Union", report, 29 October). Unlike them, I do not believe that the English nation of 55 million people, ultimately generous and fair, actually do begrudge a few million of their fellow British citizens a few marginally better benefits.

Far better that they should be encouraged to actually ask themselves, why is it that the Scots apparently have some better social benefits and, in doing so, also question what they need to do to have the same themselves? It is laughable to think that any extra monies devoted to "subsidising" Scotland's supposedly superior lifestyle would make any significant difference if redistributed amongst nearly 60 million people. This is the politics of envy taken to meaningless lengths simply to try for some cheap political gain. I trust that they no longer call themselves the Unionist Party in Scotland.

I assume that it is OK in Malcolm Rifkind's eyes for "Scottish" MPs who represent "English" constituencies to take a full part in "English" votes. Pity he did not take such views when Thatcher and her English battalions were inflicting their poll-tax experiment on Scotland. A good day for Alex Salmond but a poor one for people who believe in Britain.

Professor Tom Simpson

University of Bristol

Sir: For years, the Scots political class (including Sir Malcolm Rifkind) have been wrestling with the West Lothian question without ever coming to the very simple answer: a federal Britain where each constituent nation has its own parliament, and we elect a federal government on top. Really, it is quite simple. This means that the legislature will match the responsibilities of the executive at the appropriate level.

But if Sir Malcolm and the Tories had taken part in the pre-devolution discussions, perhaps the excesses of devolution would have been missed. In the pro-independence community, there was a great deal of glee at the devolution settlement because it was clearly not long-term sustainable, but we are still waiting for the people of England to catch up.

Alan Bath

Dunfermline, Fife

Truths about Saudi Arabia

Sir: Many thanks for opposing the visit of the King of Saudi Arabia. It is sad that most of the Press and most of the politicians will argue for the dubious Saudi role in the "war on terror", and accuse you and the Liberal Democrats of being ready to sacrifice British jobs by threatening our exports of tarnished weapons.

Could we hope that if the Liberal Democrats were in power that we would see the reopening of the BAe fraud investigation, and a firm commitment to putting human rights and personal liberties ahead of cash? I am fed up with feeling dirty and guilty that my country is benefiting from such blood money.

Peter Valentine

Oadby, Leicesteshire

Sir: Your front page and leading article on 29 October were misleading about the situation in Saudi Arabia.

As Prince Turki Bin Saud has rightly said: "Imposing reforms by external means will cause rejection and negative response." The Kingdom is indeed going through reform and, however slow, it is still encouraging.

The Consultative Council, or Majlis al-Shoura with its membership broadly representative of the kingdom's diversity and inaugurated by the late King Fahd in 1993, marked a significant move towards the formalisation of the participative nature of government in Saudi Arabia. In 2003, the then Crown Prince Abdulah Bin Abdell called for "expansion of political participation", and his Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal added that, "the Saudis have reached a stage of development that requires expanding political participation".

Throughout the history of the Middle East conflict, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has continued to provide firm support for a just and comprehensive peace.

Saudi diplomacy has been astonishingly successful for many years. Only Saudi Arabia has the courage and political power in the region to adapt the course of events in the Middle East to the world of the 21st century.

The Kingdom's great successes have been a fine texture of realism and conservatism; as a force of peace and stability; as a country that does not interfere in other countries' affairs, and nor does it accept interference in its own.

Dr Aaber SALIM

Grays, Essex

Eurostar's track record of errors

Sir: One can only agree with Richard Thomas (letter, 24 October) on the decision by Eurostar to make major cutbacks in the services it offers from Ashford. Despite Eurostar doing little to promote Ashford, it is a popular station with users.

But why does it cost the same to travel to Paris or Lille from Ashford as it does from London? I understand Eurostar management have told objectors to the Ashford changes that virtually nowhere else do high-speed trains have two stops as close as Ashford and Ebbsfleet. That is certainly not the case for the French TGV system, where local politicians seem to have more sway.

Additionally, the French local authorities in both the Pas de Calais and the Nord departments opposite east Kent are keen for more stops to boost cross-channel business between the two regions, which the new Ebbsfleet station does not provide.

As Mr Thomas indicates, keeping the existing Ashford stops and the services to Lille and Brussels is economic common sense, even if environmental and green issues are not taken into account.

Humphrey Hudson

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Sir: The mistake Eurostar made from the outset was to charge the same price for a ticket to Brussels or Paris from Ashford as from Waterloo, although the journey was a good 30 per cent shorter from Ashford (letters, 25, 27, 29 October).

This made it uneconomical for many people in north and west Kent to travel to Ashford by train, because it was cheaper to go back the "wrong" way to Waterloo. So it's not surprising that 90 per cent of demand is to and from London, or that 90 per cent of Ashford Eurostar users travel by road. Many more would have used Ashford if the price had been right.

Ebbsfleet is an awful place to get to by public transport, despite extra buses and so on, unless you happen to live along a narrow corridor. From most of Kent, customers will have to go by car, and at some point use the M25 or M2, where traffic can suddenly and unexpectedly jam for up to an hour or more. So, to drive to Ebbsfleet, people would have to leave an hour earlier than necessary for fear of missing the connection. Many in this area will choose the safer route of taking the train back to St Pancras.

Mark Stickings

Bromley, Kent

Sir: Defending Eurostar's decision to phase out the Ashford-Brussels services (letter, 29 October), Simon Montague claims that, "Eurostar cannot operate a timetable that will reduce its French-Anglo-Belgian shareholders' revenues". Talk about giving the game away.

Graham Andrews

Rhode-Saint-Genese, Belgium

Sir: I am so sorry to hear of the plight of the population of Kent who will now have to pay to travel into London, or drive a bit further and pay a parking fee at the mythical Ebbsfleet so they can catch a direct train to Brussels. But it does at least put them on a par with the rest of us.

Perhaps the "North/South divide" is becoming the "London/ Everywhere else divide"? Terrible shame, isn't it?

D J Walker


British mercenaries in foreign wars

Sir: Your excellent account of the British security industry ("The fat cats of war", 27 October) raises the question of the legality of hiring, training and equipping men to fight abroad for private companies or individuals.

These forces are private armies similar to those raised and financed by the nobility during the Wars of the Roses. If Warwick the Kingmaker had employed corporate-speak, he would no doubt have described his train of knights and archers as a form of "risk management". The mayhem caused by these forces prompted legislation which restricted armed retinues.

Does Colonel Tim Spicer of Aegis have a licence from the Crown to retain soldiers, and does he insist that all his recruits are of the rank of "esquire"?

Even more pertinent is the 1870 Foreign Enlistment Act, which makes it a crime for British subjects to engage in foreign wars as mercenaries. It was used to prosecute Cecil Rhodes's filibusterers who invaded the Transvaal in 1895. This coup de main was undertaken by Dr Jameson and troopers from the British South Africa Company Police, mercenaries who had been recruited in Britain to provide "internal security". Like the baronial retinues of the Middle Ages, it was the ancestor of a security industry whose purposes seem at loggerheads with the spirit and the intention of the law.

Lawrence James

Balmerino, Fife

MPs are worth every penny

Sir: It is Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, who should be "ashamed" of himself rather than MPs over their expenses ("MPs claim £88m expenses on top of the £60,675 each gets in salary", 26 October). His declaration that "families are struggling to pay higher tax bills while MPs are spending more and more of our money on themselves" is outrageous spin.

Mr Elliott must be aware that the largest part of an MP's expenses is for running a constituency office. I worked in one of these very briefly and was amazed at the range of problems and inquiries that the staff dealt with, from people having problems with government departments or utility companies through those with relatives about to be deported, all the way to a lady demanding that her MP retune her TV. To cope, the staff need a combination of skills, knowledge, patience and good humour that would defeat most of us.

The average expense claim comes to about £2 per constituent; excellent value for such disparate services. The salary amounts to less than £1 a head, a tiny price to pay to get someone prepared to scrutinise legislation, sit through interminable debates and do hundreds of other tasks on constituents' behalf.

Brian Hughes

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Comics inspire a love of classics

Sir: Contrary to your frivolous headline, "Wham! Pow! Egad! Classics get comic treatment" (27 October), through much of the rest of Europe the comic strip – or graphic novel – is held in high regard, and the quality of stories and artwork are often far superior to their American or contemporary British counterparts.

But in the 1950s and 1960s the boys' comic The Eagle pioneered the idea of the comic strip to tell real-life biographies of people such as Livingstone, Nelson, Field Marshal Montgomery, Winston Churchill, St Paul and Jesus Christ. It also reproduced several C S Forester Hornblower books, simplified, of course, and with the love interest omitted (as no doubt thought fitting for a 1960s boys' comic). It inspired me in my early teens to read the original books, as well as later wanting to discover more about Churchill or Montgomery.

Of course, just as with films, a comic strip must omit and simplify much that is in the literary original, but Shakespeare, for instance, is about more than poetic language; his stories are brilliant and timeless.

Any effort to get today's children to read and enjoy the classics, after which at least some will go back and read the originals, as I did, should be encouraged, rather than criticised.

Garth Groombridge


Knowing one's place

Sir: The research that got Professor Jim Watson into trouble not only suggests "African" IQ is lower than "white" IQ; it suggests Ashkenazi Jews and East Asians have higher IQs than run-of-the-mill Europeans such as me. Should I feel depressed and humiliated, condemned to racial inferiority? One needs to know these things in case cheerfulness keeps breaking in.

Alan Ryan

New College, Oxford

Ruthless America

Sir: The United States is accusing Iran of being a threat to the world and interfering in the affairs of others. Is this the same US which, under the present regime, has removed the governments of Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, arms non-democratic Saudi Arabia and sent bombs to Israel while they were bombing Lebanon and illegally occupying Palestine? The biggest threat to world peace and stability is an out-of-control and ruthless US which wants to control the world's resources.

Kryss Katsiavriades

London E5

Name game

Sir: In "Screen Tested" (26 October), the National Photography Museum (Bradford) referred to has been The National Media Museum since November 2006; before this, it was the National Museum of Film, Photography and Television. Also, the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds, built in 1914, is a beautiful venue, and among the UK's few surviving picture palaces.

Jayne Ambrose


Dead wrong

Sir: Dr Milton Wainwright is wrong to say Nobel Prizes could not be awarded to the deceased (letter, 26 October) although that is the case now. Mahatma Gandhi was nominated for the Peace Prize in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and two days before he was assassinated in 1948. He was surely the most influential man of peace of the 20th century, and the Nobel Committee considered awarding the prize posthumously but decided not to. But it was given posthumously to Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961.

Raj Kothari

Bridport, Dorset

Templars' nemesis

Sir I was amazed to read "How the Vatican destroyed the Knights Templar" (26 October). That would have been quite an achievement, since "the Vatican" was not functioning then. The papal court was in exile in Avignon, and the real story is one of a weak Pope failing to resist royal pressure. "How Philip IV destroyed the Templars", would have been a better headline.

Father Rob Esdaile

Thames Ditton, Surrey