I have just received two letters in the post that raise questions about the political process. One was from the Prime Minister and the other from the chief fundraiser for the Liberal Democrats.
David Cameron’s is a survey about attitudes to Europe, presumably sent at random, as I don’t know the man. However, I quite often hear from the fundraiser as I am a Lib Dem member and donate when I can.
The Conservative survey is slanted towards such xenophobic attitudes and seems so likely to incite hate crime that I wonder if it is legal.
To give two examples, one asks views on “tougher and longer re-entry bans for rough sleepers, beggars and fraudsters”.
Conflating these categories implies that anyone living on the street is a foreigner and dishonest, whereas the great majority of them are British people whose situation has been made worse by austerity policies.
The second example is “EU jobseekers will not be supported by taxpayers and will have to leave if they are not in a job within six months”, which suggests that any citizen from another European country is a scrounger, and ignores the fact that very many British people benefit from free movement by working in mainland Europe.
One party in Government spends a great deal of money on a survey that seems to me designed to solicit the votes of bigots and incite hatred.
The other party, which stands for fair and liberal policies and attitudes which the majority of British people agree with, lacks money adequately to promote itself. How come?
Vivienne Kynaston, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire
I received an email from David Cameron today, addressed directly to me. I feel privileged.
In it he says: “I believe that if you have worked hard and earned your own money, you should be able to spend it how you like. It’s your money, not the Government’s – and so you should keep it. That is why I believe in cutting taxes.”
Let’s take his statement to its logical conclusions. Basically, he’s telling me that I have a right to keep my money and not hand it over to the Government.
But if all of us did that (and not just some of the big multinationals), there would be no government, no funding for education, no police, no NHS, no defence. Indeed, without all of us funding government, there would be no prime minister. Mr Cameron has just talked himself out of a job.
Brian Mathieson, Plymouth
So David Cameron will promise voters more money for “a “nice meal out” (“Britons deserve a tax break, says Cameron”, 26 January) – even if that means less Government revenue”?
If you decide to eat out in Cheltenham or Gloucester, you may pass a hospital whose present financial support is so inadequate that, overwhelmed, it recently declared a “general incident”. Try not to fall over on your way home.
Alison Brackenbury, Cheltenham
A double standard: no buts about it
I read with much interest Howard Jacobson’s denunciation of the “But Brigade” (24 January) and my culpability in this crime. But (apologies for using the correct word) I’m afraid that he was very careful to miss the point, completely.
There was no “but” in the article of mine that elicited his fury. Rather, the article provided a series of illustrations of a highly significant general principle that was stated quite explicitly: “The more we can blame some crimes on enemies, the greater the outrage; the greater our responsibility for crimes – and hence the more we can do to end them – the less the concern, tending to oblivion or even denial.”
I can easily comprehend why Mr Jacobson would insist that the demonstration of the principle must be suppressed, but (apologies again) I see no reason to accede to his demand.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Saudi Arabia opposes the UN charter
Will Gore (26 January) states: “King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia... was an absolute monarch who had absolute disregard for what liberal Westerners would view as basic human rights”.
This is an unduly relativistic way of putting it: the rights in question are set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; this was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 after 48 nations voted in favour; Saudi Arabia was one of eight nations that abstained. The declaration is embodied in the UN Charter.
This is not simply a difference of opinion between an autocrat and Western liberals; Saudi Arabia is going against the UN Charter.
It behoves its allies, including the UK and the US, to follow the example of Amnesty International and remind Saudi Arabia of its obligations in respect of human rights.
John Dakin, Toddington, Bedfordshire
Holocaust day must not be forgotten
There have been discussions around whether or not the time has come to put commemoration of Holocaust Day behind us, and move on. The answer is: absolutely not.
There is of course the argument as to how long we should continue to mark such important events. We will all recall the extensive coverage of the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, in addition to the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War. I noticed little dissension as we showed our respect for those who fought to retain our freedom, much of which is swiftly being eroded in the face of a different kind of conflict; random ruthless acts of terrorism in the name of religion.
Future generations of historians will be sure to ask the same question: what have we learnt? As a civilisation, not a lot it would seem. Wars involving many nations on such a scale may well be a thing of the past, as technological advances enable us to increasingly fight our battles remotely. However, there is barely a corner of the world in which there is not some strife, reported daily for us all to see on our TV screens, in gory detail.
I wonder if, with such constant, relentless, friction, we are at risk of becoming immune, preferring to tune into something more amusing and lighthearted as we while away our evenings over a glass of wine or two, rather than face up to the reality of the atrocities being committed elsewhere.
Without these reminders of what has gone before, we are in danger of putting the impact of such massacres, whether committed on our shores or elsewhere, out of our minds.
We must not forget, because the failure to remember will mean that we never learn the lessons that history can so vividly teach us, if we choose to learn.
Linda Piggott-Vijeh, Combe St Nicholas, Somerset
Disgusting prejudice against woman bishop
I am not a religious woman but I was moved by the accounts of the consecration of the Rev Libby Lane as the first woman bishop and the roaring affirmation the congregation gave her when she was challenged.
I was, therefore, disgusted to read in your editorial (27 January) that the soon-to-be Bishop of Burnley is not allowing the same clergy to “lay on hands” that touched Libby Lane because of his conservative views.
What on earth does he think will happen? Will he not speak to her at meetings or stand near her in the lunch queue either? It would be funny if it wasn’t so prejudiced.
St Neots, Cambridgeshire
The damage done to schools by Gove
The report of the Education Select Committee (“‘No evidence’ primary schools benefit from changing to academies”, 27 January) points out that there is nothing to show that turning the small minority of primary schools into academies is resulting in higher standards or a better quality of education.
There is, however, compelling evidence of a different outcome. Gove’s academy and free schools policies have resulted in a near-fatal weakening of local democracy and accountability, and in a marked decline in the capacity of local authorities to support the large majority of primary schools, as well as a large minority of secondary schools, not opting for academy status.
But perhaps that attack on local governance and support was always part of Gove’s “grand” (or grandiose) design?
Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria
Nothing daft about abolition of zoos
Ian Birrell (26 January) criticises the Green Party’s “daft policies”, such as “the abolition of zoos”.
I am disappointed that Mr Birrell views this policy as daft; zoos are pernicious places that degrade and oppress animals for the sake of our pleasure.
The Greens may have some daft policies, but the abolition of zoos is not one of them.
Harley Miller, London SW19Reuse content