A Conservative Prime Minister abroad besieged by a civil war on Europe. Falling poll ratings at home, the NHS in a mess and a deeply unpopular tax on the poor causing tragedies. As with Mrs Thatcher in November 1990, the Tory vultures are circling again. One wonders who will be the first to come forward and deliver the fatal blow this time.
Short of a miracle, and perhaps a successful intervention in Syria, a Tory leadership contest and an early general election are becoming inevitable.
Anthony Rodriguez, Staines, Middlesex
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s claim that Ukip enhances “hatred of the outsider” (13 May) is short-sighted. Today, hatred and divisions exist among the insiders, perhaps because of the past and present governments controlled by the elite.
She has also forgotten to add that Nigel Farage is against the EU because it is dictating some of the UK’s laws and regulations that are not just limited to immigration. Mr Farage would like Britain to govern itself while retaining trade links within the EU.
Dean Ferns, Dover
In 10 or more years’ time, when the European Union is likely to exceed 30 countries, how can the UK (possibly without Scotland) compete with our nearest rivals, should we leave? So why not have a United States of Europe, where we all pull together with one currency instead of this continual fight to be somehow different?
If we leave the EU, we will become a completely broken, third-rate country. You might as well close the Channel tunnel and stop talking about airport expansion or high-speed railways, because we won’t be able to afford them.
Richard Grant, Burley, Hampshire
If Britain is to maintain that it may be appropriate to renegotiate her relationship with the EU then she must maintain that it would not be appropriate for any of the others to do so at the same time. And how could she know that no other member would want to renegotiate? You either belong to a club and obey the rules or you leave.
Robert Edwards, Hornchurch, Essex
Planet doomed? Tell us about the poll in Pakistan
It is instructive to observe the response of the media in the week that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million. It tells us a lot about why this government has been allowed to abandon its environmental policies and why so many of its climate-change advisers are resigning (report, 11 May).
The public looks to the BBC to provide a “balanced” view of climate change, but its record is lamentable. Instead of asking its correspondents to deal with it as a scientific issue, it treats it as a left/right issue and seems to think it has to provide “political balance”.
The Today programme (11 May) mentioned that CO2 had reached 400ppm, but this item was fourth behind the election in Pakistan, a solicitor who had been arrested without justification by the police, and the prevalence of depression among carers; without doubt important issues but why are they considered of greater relevance than the future of the planet?
Could it be, as has been suggested, that editors and journalists, trained in the humanities, just don’t get it?
Dr Robin Russell-Jones MA FRCP FRCPath, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire
Hawking’s Israel boycott
Here are a couple of inconsistencies in the call to boycott Israel’s academia (“Row deepens over Hawking’s Israel boycott”, 9 May).
First – and most obviously – the call has not been accompanied by similar calls to boycott the USA’s academic institutions, despite the horrendous treatment, immoral and illegal, of Guantanamo prisoners. We could, of course, also argue for similar boycotting calls regarding Russia, China and many, many more.
Second, the boycotters know that Israeli citizens have suffered horribly from Palestinian rocket attacks, but, not unreasonably, they object to Israel’s retaliation, seemingly on the basis of rejecting the doctrine of collective responsibility, the result of the retaliation being injury and death of innocent civilians. The boycotters, though, are themselves guilty of using that doctrine – for they must surely know that many Israeli academics oppose their government’s policies towards the Palestinians.
Peter Cave, London W1
The furore surrounding the decision by Professor Hawking to support the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions movement shows up an important aspect of the propaganda war in the Israel/Palestine conflict.
On the one hand widespread imprisonment without trial, use of white phosphorus, Hellfire missile technology and heavy bombing resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians are morally acceptable because “we are at war”.
On the other hand the boycott of an Israeli presidential conference is an outrage. It would be laughable if not for the tragedy behind it.
May God bless Professor Hawking and may his courage and example lead many others to stand up and be counted for justice and peace, which includes an Israel entirely at peace and secure within its own borders.
Brendan O’Brien, London N21
It is a pity that Professor Stephen Hawking, by choosing to boycott Israel, has allowed himself to become a part of the “de-legitimisation of Israel” campaign, which associates the Jewish movement for self-determination with racism, and the state of Israel with apartheid-like regimes.
In Israel, all citizens, including the Arab minority, actively participate in the political process; incitement to racism is a criminal offence, as is discrimination on the basis of race or religion.
Since apartheid South Africa was a racist State, it had – one can argue – no right to exist. This argument, however, cannot be used against Israel, for Israel is a multi-religious state, where Arab parliamentarians, Arab judges, Arab diplomats, Arab cabinet ministers work along with their Jewish colleagues.
Randhir Singh Bains, Gants Hill, Essex
London sucks up nation’s wealth
Apparently, London house prices have risen by around 8 per cent in the past 12 months, indicating that the wealth of Londoners has increased by something like £1trn in that time (a comparable figure for the rest of the UK would be negative).
If you add to that the virtual monopoly of large-infrastructure and private-sector projects enjoyed by the capital, increasing centralisation of business and government and the insane levels of subsidy applied to transport for London, a picture emerges of London hoovering up wealth, and by natural extension, youth and energy, leaving the badly under-invested and over-taxed provinces to cope with the mundane tasks of caring for their dependent young and elderly.
As the provincial economy withers, these activities require increasing government funding, which has unsurprisingly morphed from responsibility, through obligation, to the increasingly niggardly and moralistic “charity” of the present administration. At the same time, economic and social power is forcing the entirely inappropriate values of a polyglot world city on to the UK communities.
R Goodall, Bewdley, Worcestershire
I stand by my sarcasm
Rebecca Wheeler (letter, 10 May) asks whether I would have written my sarcastic letter about women’s City bonuses (9 May) had the matter concerned, say, a group of black workers, and whether The Independent would have published it.
While the rest of society is suffering from the consequences of the bankers’ greed, it’s hard to have much sympathy for people who have a sense of entitlement completely out of proportion to their worth, whether these people be male, female, black, or white. Trying to enlist sympathy for them because we should oppose discrimination in principle is laughable when one considers the poverty and oppression that millions of people suffer around the world.
So yes, I would have written the same letter
Nick Wray, Derby
Rote learning has its place
The argument between Michael Gove and the teaching professionals is becoming ever more sterile. Rote learning and creative analysis and deduction are not incompatible – each is essential to the overall education experience.
I ask the opponents of rote learning to explain how else one can learn the alphabet, or the position of Thailand on a world map? Rote learning is the essential foundation of many everyday and high-level intellectual tasks. If a nuclear scientist had to work out E=MC2 every time he made use of it, it would slow his work down somewhat.
Yet rote learning is a sterile tool unless allied to creative thinking and analysis, and on its own leads to dogmatic thinking and reactive actions – dangerous in all walks of life.
Peter Evans, Billericay, Essex
Martyrs for their faiths
The news from the Vatican is that Pope Francis has canonised the hundreds of Christian inhabitants of the southern Italian town of Otranto who were massacred by Muslim Ottoman Turks in 1480.
May we reasonably expect now that His Holiness will similarly canonise the thousands of Muslim inhabitants of Jerusalem who were massacred for their faith by western Christian crusaders after they took the city on 15 July 1099?
Others are surely to follow. Victims of the Inquisition next, perhaps?
Professor P P Anthony, Exeter
As a regular visitor to three elderly inpatients at three major hospitals in Lincolnshire over the past five years, I have noticed that there are always plenty of NHS employees gathered around the area usually called the nurses’ station. Gaining their attention, or at least the attention of the staff member appropriate to patient need, is a greater challenge.
Bob Simmonds, Stickney, Lincolnshire
Who are we?
If Scotland votes for independence in a year’s time, the United Kingdom will, I suppose, cease to exist. Scots will be happy being Scottish, but what are the rest of us going to call ourselves and our nation? Great Britain will be divided, so British doesn’t really work.
Derek Chapman, Southampton