Letters: Travellers are still the enemy

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The Independent Online

When Mrs Thatcher was in power she was busily closing down factories and businesses, which led to people being out of a job and out of their homes. Many of them took to the road in buses and old caravans and became known as New Age Travellers.

It seemed at the time every local authority was against them and they were moved on – and on. No place for them to park their vehicles or send their children to school. They were accused of trading and using drugs; their children and dogs were supposed to be a menace to society.

Here we are with son of Thatcher in power and here we are again with the travellers the enemy. What beggars belief is that the planning system of Basildon could take 10 years to resolve the problem at Dale Farm.

It could be that the name of the game was to get the travellers to move away altogether, otherwise surely it would have been possible in 10 years to have found a site complete with planning permission where they would have had to pay rent, rates and water charges. This would seem to me to be better for the council finances than spending millions to throw them out. Travellers have great difficulty in getting planning permission for anything.

This year the travellers, next year who? There are not a lot of unions left to demonise, though the teachers are getting a bit uppity. Is it really necessary to demonise parts of our society in order to hide the confused policies of the current government?

Morag Morrell


Residents of Dale Farm facing eviction claim that their settled lives will be destroyed as a result, ignoring the fact that this is only because they stayed there, illegally, for so long without heeding the warnings to move on.

Further defence relies on the "massive waste of money" due to costs for Basildon council to conduct the evictions, once again ignoring the fact that if those illegal residents heeded the law and moved on, evictions would not be necessary.

This issue has been caused entirely by the illegal residents of Dale Farm, their total disregard for the law of the land and lack of respect for the perfectly legitimate action against them. Their logic for defending their actions defies rational explanation.

Laurence Williams

Thetford, Norfolk

Palestine 'state' solves nothing

Any vote to upgrade the Palestinian status from observership to full membership of the UN will be a nullity. It will not alter the realities on the ground, namely: the concentrated clusters of Jewish settlements on occupied Arab territories; the apartheid wall delving deep into Palestinian lands under the guise of self-defence and the illegal siege imposed on over one and a half million inhabitants of the Gaza strip, making it virtually the largest prison on earth.

The vote would also do little to assuage gruelling poverty and rampant corruption or to enhance the image of a feeble Palestinian leadership which never misses an opportunity to centralise power and swell its coffers at the expense of the Palestinian people. Hamas still tightens its grip on Gaza, enjoys an overwhelming support among the Palestinians and refuses to recognise Israel. One wonders how peace can be achievable amid such insurmountable obstacles.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London NW10

The world will be watching this week to witness the outcome of the Palestinians' attempts to gain recognition for a state of Palestine at the UN while ignoring any negotiation with Israel. If a state of "Palestine" is proclaimed, will it solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

The disputed territory of Judea and Samaria, de-Judaised into the "West Bank", was in Arab hands before 1967, yet there was not peace with Israel then, so why should it suddenly guarantee it now?

The Arab Palestinians want "East Jerusalem" as the capital of their state, but one must realise that "East Jerusalem" covers the whole of the old walled city of Jerusalem, in essence the entire biblical holy city, as the environs of west Jerusalem are modern. What is being given away here is the centre of the Jewish people's faith and history, where Jewish Kings such as David and Solomon reigned and where the Jewish Temple once stood.

When Muslims had the Old City from 1947 to 1967, illegally annexed and occupied by Jordan, they forbade any Jews to reside in the area or even to visit the Western Wall, and they desecrated synagogues and Jewish graves. The founding of an Islamic state of Palestine, named after the Israelites' ancient enemies, the Philistines, would likely follow the same negative pattern.

Such a "state" in the already diminutive confines of the Holy Land will only be a recipe for further bloodshed and conflict, given the current instability in the region since the Arab Spring. Israel would be left with a coastal territory only nine miles wide at its narrowest point, leaving it vulnerable to a future attack.

Colin Nevin

Bangor, Co Down

What legalistic nonsense from John Strawson (letter, 19 September). The physical facts, beyond dispute, are that, with the encouragement of this country and others, during the period from the end of the First World War up to today, the Israelis have invaded the homeland of the Palestinians, thrown a huge number of them out and are well on the way to taking over what remains of their land, except for the Gaza strip.

Is it any wonder that trouble and resentment continues, and legalistic niceties will do nothing to assuage this. We shall be very fortunate if, at some time in the future, a major war does not result from this awful mess.

Dudley Dean

Maresfield, East Sussex

John Strawson was absolutely correct in taking Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to task for claiming that Palestinian land "was stolen to create a Jewish state in order to assuage the guilt of the Holocaust". In debunking this lie by proving that the UN partition plan was made without reference to the Holocaust, he did not go back far enough.

Long before the Holocaust, the 1922 San Remo Conference of the League of Nations declared absolutely in favour of giving the whole of mandate Palestine to the Jews, on the basis of their historic claims and their almost continuous settlement in the country for 3,500 years, in spite of their treatment by repeated foreign conquerors.

It also accepted the concept that, as the Arabs were to be given Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, not to mention that North Africa and much of Asia to the east was Muslim, it only seemed fair to return the small area of Palestine to its historical owners.

Britain, however, proceeded to give 83 per cent of Palestine to the Hashemite family to create the Kingdom of Transjordan and gave the Golan Heights to Syria to placate the French. The small remaining strip was left to be partitioned in 1948, a plan which the Jews accepted but the Arabs rejected and went to war, thus creating their refugee problem.

Alan Halibard

Bet Shemesh, Israel

It's no surprise that the US has been pressured by its Jewish lobby to veto the upcoming Palestinian attempts for statehood recognition at the UN. America is now largely seen as doing Israel's bidding on the global stage – at any cost. But a miscalculation by the US now (and by the UK if we follow suit) will reduce the influence of either government in the region for years to come.

Israel, under the increasingly extremist leadership of Netanyahu, has been undermining future Palestinian statehood since he took office with increasing illegal settlement in the West Bank, the outrageous war in Lebanon, the blockade of Gaza and the cynical killing of peace activists.

His assertion of Israel as a "Jewish" state, rather than the secular state it's always been, is now being repeated as a mantra by the US. The Palestinians quite rightly insist that is as ridiculous as them declaring an Islamic state, and point to the 20 per cent of Israeli citizens who are not Jewish and deserve equal protection from the state as minorities.

It's time, as Jack Straw has been arguing, to stand up to Israel and give the Palestinians recognition of the state they have always deserved.

Stefan Wickham

Oxted, Surrey

Legal aid cuts anger a Lib Dem

I appreciate that in a coalition some compromise is necessary. But it is surely not necessary to sell one's soul. I fail to comprehend how anyone calling themselves a Liberal Democrat can possible vote for the Coalition's plans to limit the right to legal aid.

Unfortunately my comprehension has failed me on so many occasions lately that I am permanently unspeakably angry at what is being done "in my name". If my constituency MP was any other than Charles Kennedy, for whom I have the utmost respect, I should months ago have left the party I joined at its inception. I will never, ever, vote Conservative and I fear I am running out of options.

Marilyn Clarke

Portree, Isle of Skye

Cuts in the legal aid budget ("Children hit hardest by legal aid reform, says study", 19 September) highlight the hollowness of the idea that "we are all equal before the law".

We are not remotely equal with regard to having the means for coming before the law; and, if before the law, we are far from equal in resources for defending ourselves or prosecuting our cases. Hence, those with the same grievances may receive very different legal judgments.

To promote the mantra of equality before the law is akin to claiming that the poor and the wealthy are equal before the window of the food hall, the steps of the opera house, or the entrance to the private clinic.

Peter Cave

London W1

At the mercy of al-Shabaab

The government of Somalia has banned foreign aid workers and journalists from entering areas of the country controlled by al-Shabaab, because of fears for their safety. This in effect means that the fate of nearly four million of the people worst affected by famine in Somalia now rests almost entirely in the hands of a terrorist group, which has previously said it would rather people starved to death than accept western aid.

How, other than by employing a sufficient number of properly equipped and trained peacekeepers, to establish safe corridors for the delivery of aid, does the international community intend addressing the situation in Somalia?

By the UN's own estimates, more than four million people are now critically or severely malnourished, and 750,000 could die in the next four months unless food and medical aid are delivered to them. Virtually all of these people are located in al-Shabaab regions.

Does the international community have a plan for Somalia? Or is it going to stand by while hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions – of people perish from lack of food and medicine? If the latter is the case, then why is Somalia being treated differently from innumerable other countries, where there have been robust interventions supposedly in defence of fundamental human rights? What could be more fundamental than the right to life?

John O'Shea

CEO, GOAL, London W1

Whose national infrastructure?

There is much talk currently about government investment in national infrastructure. This sounds fine if we have the companies to carry out these huge capital projects and if we are sufficiently vigorous to ensure that UK companies get the contracts.

The recent new dual carriageway to get visitors to the Olympic sailing events in Weymouth was built by a Swedish company. It always strikes me as amazing that our partner countries in the EU very often seem to find home-based bids the best.

Eric V Evans

Dorchester, Dorset

Sentences for rioters

It is wrong of you to claim that "official figures disclosed" that the courts "bowed to demands from ministers to hit rioters with tough punishments" (report, 16 September). The figures you refer to do not show that judges or magistrates took any account of ministers' "demands" for the courts to deal with the rioters differently. The sentences handed out can only be compared with sentences given to people in similar riot conditions, and not to common burglaries, thefts and violence committed in different situations.

Paul Ashton

St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex

Coleridge remembered

Howard Jacobson (17 September) observes that there is "no Coleridge tram stop in Ottery St Mary". He is quite correct, but this is most likely because we have no trams. However I am pleased to be able to tell him that we recently opened a new bridge over the river Otter, as part of a new footpath and cycleway. After a vote seeking the most popular name, it is now known as the Coleridge Bridge. The townsfolk of Ottery St Mary are very proud of their poet.

Keith Tizzard

Ottery St Mary, Devon

Easy money for Royal Mail

Most of us get paid for doing a job. But our Royal Mail is now demanding almost £100 to not do their job. It now costs this for a PO box, which involves them not delivering our post. I am running a small business so need a secure mail address, as do people in shared accommodation or who move addresses. This is not a luxury and represents almost a doubling of the charge from previous years. Can I get paid for not doing my job too?

Barb Drummond


An insult to Cornwall

We in Cornwall have until 5 December to register our heartfelt anger and opposition of the Boundary Commission's desire to breach the Tamar and impose an Anglo-Cornish constituency. However we note that none of the forms is available in Cornish, and so the process must be illegal under European law. If the Coalition, and especially the Lib Dems, think the Cornish will accept this without one hell of a backlash, they are wrong.

Tim James

Penzance, Cornwall

Too poor to be green

I have to agree with the principle of recycling, as recommended in Patrick Cosgrove's letter (19 September). But I think we now all know that you have to be rich to be green. In these days of austerity can you blame a company for dumping its old computers when it is dearer to recycle them? The same applies to "alternative" energy projects. I am very keen on green energy: I just wish I could afford it.

Dr Tim Lawson

Cheam, Surrey

Difficult partners

Are Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Chris Huhne and Tim Farron part of the David Cameron's Coalition Government? Every speech they make, and every report I read of what they are saying, suggests to me that they are the Opposition, and a very virulent, socialist, left-wing opposition at that. How long can this idiotic state of affairs continue? Time for a reality check, Dave.

Alan Carcas

Liversedge, West Yorkshire

Perspectives on the obligations of the rich

How not to tackle those fat-cat share schemes

Vincent Cable will find a muted response from his own department when making proposals for tackling over-inflated executive pay ("Cable: I'll force fat cats to justify bonuses", 19 September).

Several months ago, I suggested that Will Hutton might be asked to expand what he said in his Review of Fair Pay in the Public Sector, about the manipulation of share incentive schemes. Such schemes account for about 40 per cent of total executive pay in the private sector – rather more significant than bonuses. The department did not reply to my suggestions.

Pressing the point, I later suggested that the department might like to suggest that HMRC insist that all its tax-approved share schemes be not manipulated. They, after all, claim as policy that scheme adjustments should be neutral. This time I got a response. The department invites me to send my suggestion to the Office of Tax Simplification. I am not joking.

J N Stevens

Chilworth, Surrey

Membership subscription

Allan Friswell is missing an important point (letter, 19 September): the 50p tax rate already applies to us all; we're just not all fortunate enough to have to pay it.

This is our society, Mr Friswell; we're all in it together. We allow some people to become very rich and in return we ask them to pay a larger proportion of their income back into the fund. If you want to exercise that freedom then you pay for it. There are tens of millions of us who consider the price to be reasonable. How many of you are there?

Of course if you don't want to be part of our society, you're more than welcome to go. We'll happily "include you out". Just leave our money at the door.

David Woods

Hull, East Yorkshire

Gold-plated pensions

Last year David Cameron used every opportunity to criticise the "high" pay of local council chief executives and their "gold-plated" pensions. Interestingly, there has been no comment from him after your reports on the obscenely high pension pots and salaries of private sector CEOs. Of course I forgot, we're all in it together.

John Blenkinsopp