Letters: Tories are missing their chance

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Sir: As a middle income, open thinking, life-enjoying 32-year-old I find it no surprise at all that people within my age group find it difficult to relate to any political group on offer today.

The early days of Blair were encouraging, but everything he has achieved while in power has been sullied by the Iraq war.

As Tory leader, Mr Howard never had a chance within my peer group. Too old fashioned; too, well, conservative!

So now the Tories have a new chance to impress us. Who can they bring to the forefront too challenge Mr Blair? Well in today's Independent (3 October) it's the 65-year-old cigar-smoking fat cat Kenneth Clark. It amazes me that a potential future leader of this country will let himself be photographed in such an extraordinary pose; so out of touch, you wonder where he's been hiding for the last few years.

As long as this is the best that the Conservative Party have to offer my social group, we will carry on caring very little for politics and falling into a deeper and deeper malaise. Wake me up when its all over.



Sir: David Davis states the case for "changing" and "modernising". With that in mind, what image was he attempting to project with his "DD for me" Tory girls? That he was a "fun", "modern", "in-touch" Conservative? All this voter heard was "Hi, I'm David Davis, and I'm a chauvinistic pig". Colour me unimpressed.



Sir: Gerald Morgan writes (letter, 3 October) about our unjust voting system. When I lived in England, though I belonged to one of the major parties I was never, in all my 70 years, represented in parliament by an MP of my choice. Democracy?



Invitation to Turkey reveals EU's ills

Sir: The decision by the EU to open accession talks with Turkey is both depressing and predictable. It is emblematic of the way in which EU governments and the European serious press are detached from the peoples of Europe.

In almost every EU country there is a majority of people opposed to Turkish accession, yet every EU government has voted for accession. It's as if the governments, while claiming to be sensitive to popular opinion, are perversely committed to every action opposed to that opinion.

The press has sought to portray those who oppose Turkish accession as a motley rabble of racists, religious bigots and xenophobes. They have not admitted the possibility of perfectly rational arguments against accession. That Turkey never has been European in either tradition, history or culture. That the "embrace Islam" argument is a red herring; the EU is a secular institution, as is the Turkish government, and every EU country is multi-ethnic and multi-religious. That the EU is in such a mess that it cannot agree its own budget and is saddled with a grotesque Common Agricultural Policy which its beneficiaries refuse to dismantle. That the EU, though already so large that its peoples feel (rightly) powerless and ignored, is seeking to expand ever wider like some failing mega-corporation seeking salvation through mergers. That it is a supreme arrogance to suggest that Turkey is incapable of holding its own in the world as a cultured and independent nation.

If the EU, helped by the European press, continues to behave as though the opinions of its people are irrelevant, then those people will begin to consider the EU - and that press - irrelevant. They will seek unconventional politics, and unconventional media, rather like the inhabitants of that earlier empire, the Soviet Union. In the 21st century, government by management rather than democratic accountability is unacceptable.



Sir: The people of Europe appear to be well ahead of most of their politicians in understanding that Islam is both an important part of European culture and at the same time forms no basis for inviting Turkey to become a member of the European Union.

Britain is now a country with more Muslims in its mosques every week than there are Christians in its churches. Quite rightly, most Britons are quite unconcerned with this situation and sensibly prefer decent, law-abiding recent immigrants from places such as Pakistan to indecent, yobbish medieval immigrants from places such as Lower Saxony.

The issue concerning Turkey is not Islam, it is that the European Union is European and Turkey is Asian. To argue that possession of the Istranca peninsula makes Turkey European is to argue that possession of Gibraltar makes Britain Spanish: both propositions are preposterous.

Fortunately, some politicians such as M Giscard d'Estaing in France appear to be sufficiently in contact with reality to see Europe in a truer light. They recognise a distinct geographical area bounded by the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Caucasus, the Urals and the Atlantic Ocean. Within this Europe they see a European culture drawn from many places and traditions. Beyond its borders, they see progressive countries, such as Turkey, who are natural allies of the European Union, but not at all members of it.

In Turkey's case, it is a country which could well go on to become the progressive leading light in a prosperous Near Eastern union: a far preferable future to that of being a Eurasian march-land set up to display Europe's token Muslims to a wider world.



Sir: Peter Popham's comments from Istanbul (4 October) capture very well how important a milestone this is for modern Turkey to be negotiating for accession to the European Union. Many western-minded and secular Turks around the world are heaving a big sigh of relief to see they have not been abandoned by the West in their century-old struggle to transform their society from the regressive subjects of an obsolete theocratic empire to the citizens of a progressive modern nation-state.

As a British Turk I must express my special gratitude to the highly visionary lead Britain has taken in supporting Turkey's EU membership. The Independent's editorial team together with the rest of the respectable British press also deserve special credit for their significant contribution to an intelligent debate on the issue.

I realise Turkey is far from achieving full EU membership yet, but it is so satisfying to see that it remains on course as a secular democracy and a shining beacon to the rest of the Islamic world.



Pheasant shooting benefits the land

Sir: The views of Mark Richards (letter, 3 October) on pheasant rearing are fairly typical of the ignorance entrenched in the anti-hunting lobby generally. The practice of fitting pheasants with "freakish masks" is fairly uncommon, and most keepers choose to release birds from their cages as early as possible; indeed, the birds are better protected in the cages than out at the early stages of their lives.

Notwithstanding this, to focus on the treatment of the pheasants alone is to ignore the wider benefits of pheasant rearing. The whole idea is to give the birds as much reason to stay on your land as possible, in particular through the planting of game crops, which not only give cover to the pheasants, but also attract an enormous amount of other wild bird and insect life, counteracting the effects of the hedgerow destruction that is a result of intensive arable farming, and hugely increasing the species variegation in the area. I am sure Mr Richards would appreciate the return of rare bird species to our countryside this precipitates.



The green U-turn Blair needs to make

Sir: It was good to hear environment minister Elliot Morley (Letters, 1 October) tell us there has been no U-turn by the Prime Minister on climate change. He tells of the UK's commitment to lead by example. Mr Morley is well qualified to talk on this subject, leading, as he does, a "low-carbon" lifestyle. But can he please explain why both PM and Deputy PM still chose to drive high-carbon vehicles?

A U-turn in their actions would communicate the urgency of the climate problem far better than words ever will. Mr Morley needs to coach Mr Blair and Mr Prescott to reduce their lifestyle carbon dioxide footprints (currently thought to be in the order of 40 tonnes each) down to a more inspiring level, and preferably down towards the national average! As Mr Morley said, "We must not be restricted in our action by the pace of the slowest."



The blame for the slaughter in Bali

Sir: Daw'ud Abdullah Mannion characterises the Bali bombings as an attack on corrupt Western tourists in the Muslim world (Letters, 4 October). Most of those blown to bits last week were Balinese (and around 5 per cent of the population are Muslim). Balinese dance, as well as western tourism, is "corrupt" in the eyes of Jemaah Islamiyah.

And where the west has gone wrong in handling the Muslim "complaints" recently is that it has belatedly dropped its long-standing support for genocidal repression in non-Muslim East Timor.

The Indonesian left has had more than "dirty dancing" to put up with - it was physically liquidated when Sukarno's government was overthrown in the mid-Sixties, with the help both of the west and religious fanatics. Yet what remains of the workers' movement there has never felt it had "no option" but to butcher innocent people.



Ways to pay for a university education

Sir: The two mistakes Bill Rammell mentions ("Minister admits that Labour made mistakes on tuition fees", 3 October) were concerned with the means for application. The real mistake was to introduce student fees at all.

In 1997 Tony Blair made it clear that it was important for the economic benefit of the country to increase the number of students in higher education. It is this increase which put such a strain on university finances, and necessitated more support. However, if the benefit is to all of us, then we should all pay for it, through income tax.

It must be wrong to make graduates build up massive debts early in their careers for something which is nationally desirable.

It is interesting to note that in Scotland more than 50 per cent of school leavers have gone to university for several years - with an alternative funding process.



Sir: Richard Garner's article mentions briefly the university bursaries available under the new student finance system from 2006. This is the biggest package of bursaries ever offered by the university sector, and will invest over £350m in providing many generous support packages. These range from in-kind bursaries such as rent reductions to grants for books and IT, with cash bursaries ranging from £300 up to £5,000.

These bursaries - together with the tuition fees payment being deferred until after study, the new means-tested Government grants of up to £2,700 and repayments only after earnings top £15,000 - should ensure that no student with the right qualifications will be denied the chance to get a degree.



Sir: Your letters page of 28 September draws attention to the need for universities to be better funded in order to compete at the highest level.

My husband and I attended the same university, which now annually asks us to donate money for endowments. Unfortunately our own children are approaching university age and any spare cash we have is inevitably going to be directed towards their expenses, as they won't be getting the grants we did.

The Government is encouraging universities to ask their alumni for money but many of those alumni will be people like us who want to help our own children with university expenses and can't afford to do both. If students and their families have to pay their own way, for which there are good arguments, they can't also be expected to pay for other people through endowments.



Recognition at last

Sir: I have always had my doubts about Jack Vettriano, but the revelation in Tuesday's Independent that his paintings are in fact "ready-mades", put together in the spirit of Marcel Duchamp, shows the artist in a fresh light. Perhaps he merits a show at Tate Modern now.



Clerical errors

Sir, I wonder if the Revd John Fisher is unique, as an English clergyman, in refusing to sit on his ass (letter, 4 October). Or is he just being as stubborn as a mullah?



Irresponsible films

Sir: I have reviewed many hours of high-grossing films from Hollywood ("Why Hollywood films should come with a health warning", 3 October) and am sorry to report that there is not one single instance of people locking their cars when they get out of them. They just slam the doors and walk away! This kind of irresponsible behaviour can only give a poor example to young viewers who have active motoring lives.



Linguistic imperialism

Sir: Dr John Coleman (Letter: "Simpler spelling is inevitable", 29 September) has a point. He's also got no chance. Everybody agrees that language must change and develop, except when this change and development involves the adoption of North American usages. This, of course, is creeping Americanisation and is to be fiercely resisted.



Conference humbug

Sir: Some of your sillier readers have been making fun of the sensible policy of confiscation at the Labour Party Conference of boiled sweets which could be used as missiles. Do they not realise that a wrapped humbug could be a weapon of mastication?