Letters: Two more MPs jostling at the trough

These letters appear in the February 24 edition of The Independent

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It is in sadness, outweighing shock and anger, that one finds Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind jostling at the trough.

Many have been able to disagree with their political views, or actions in government, whilst recognising their personal integrity, but two more are now crossed from what has always been a short list.

We must have the best available people in politics, but not those seeking to exploit it for their own benefit. We ought to pay politicians and especially ministers more in office and severely restrict their abilities to sabotage public interest outside of office.

Trevor Smith
Lewes, East Sussex


Whether or not Jack Straw or Sir Malcolm Rifkind is found guilty of any actual “wrongdoing”, their case reveals the moral turpitude at the heart of our political and economic establishment.

There is a big difference, between not being involved in wrongdoing and not doing anything which is specifically unlawful, or in breach of some rule or regulation. This is a distinction which the political, banking and business elite in society don’t appear to understand. They seem to think that, so long as they can get round the regulations, they are entitled to do so.

At the very least, discussing or negotiating possible rewards while still in office, even if it is not intended to pursue them until they are out of office, is nothing more than receiving a “deferred benefit”.

There is no way of proving whether this pending reward influences their behaviour while still in office, or simply allows them to use knowledge and contacts they have developed while in office to benefit a third party once they leave.

There are rules governing when civil servants can take up appointments in the private sector with companies they have had dealings with while working for the Government. MPs have awarded themselves very generous pension arrangements, because of the “insecurity” of their employment, so there is no reason why similar rules should not apply to MPs.

Julius Marstrand


If Messrs Straw and Rifkind are only planning for imminent retirement, how is it that they both seem to have a fully articulated tariff already in place? Jack Straw’s defence that all he was doing (when caught) was “retirement planning” is as disingenuous. Strike that – oily and self-serving.

John Curtis


Jack Straw on £5,000 a day, and Sir Malcolm Rifkind at £8,000 for half a day’s work. They must have something valuable to sell.

Dr John Doherty


Chance of a new start for Greece

Your editorial “Bailout battle” (19 February) talks of the Greeks as if they were a single entity rather than a population of individuals falling into an extreme range of economic groups, from the really poor to the obscenely rich. This spectrum has suffered through austerity in inverse proportion to their responsibility for the financial meltdown.

In general terms the rich and powerful in all western nations either caused or colluded with the events leading up to 2008, but it is the poor and the powerless who have suffered.

Also you equate right and left. What Syriza represents in Greece and Podemos in Spain could just be the chance of a new direction for all of Europe, benefiting all economic groups except the super-rich by breaking with the logic of economic orthodoxy. This is no “moral hazard” but an opportunity for moral regeneration, putting people before abstract theories and a parallel universe of statistics designed simply to protect wealth and power against democracy.

Steve Edwards
Haywards Heath, West Sussex


The Church of England bishops declare there is a moral case for the European Union, an institution so corrupt its finances have never once been signed off. The bishops are blind to the plight of southern Europe’s people stretched on an economic rack to ensure the political class can pursue its forlorn federalist dream.

For millions the future is bleak, with no end in sight of years of deprivation, unemployment, penury and national humiliation. Meanwhile those who hold the reins of power enjoy generous pay, extraordinary allowances and gilt-edged pensions.

Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews


How to stay safe on a bike

When I was learning to ride my bike in Suffolk in the 1950s my father taught me some important things (editorial, 20 February.)

First, the only safe places to be on a bike in motor traffic were directly in front of a vehicle (in full view of the driver) or right behind (thus in the rear-view mirror). The former position annoyed drivers sometimes, but in the event of an accident, at least the driver could never claim he didn’t see me.

Second, at a junction, never creep up on the nearside of a motor vehicle – stay behind.  You couldn’t be sure what the driver would do (this in the days of trafficators, which often jammed and if cars had fancy flashing indicators you couldn’t see them).

Later, when I learned to drive, my instructor was insistent that when overtaking a cyclist I should always leave room for him or her to fall off – not just stop and put a foot down, but sprawl across the road in front of me. I failed my first driving test on that exact point.

Perhaps there are lessons to be learned on both sides.

D J Walker
Macclesfield, Cheshire


Murdered in the name of atheism

If John Dakin is unaware of any atheists killing in the name of God’s non-existence (letter, 17 February), I suggest that he learns a bit of history, as there are several examples of this.

The French revolution saw some attacks on Christians by atheists, and the atheist Jacobins were quite murderous of their enemies and intolerant of religion. Turreau’s infernal columns attacked French Catholic royalists, exterminating thousands.

In the Soviet Union the 1929 constitution made atheism official and many Christians were sent to Labour camps, where some were executed.

In 1968 the Red Guards crucified a Christian. And there were several killings, either through direct murder or death through neglect in prison, of religious believers. Communism was and is an atheistic system.

Francis Beswick
Stretford, Greater Manchester


Villages clash with developers

You report that a collapse in housebuilding “heaps pressure on ministers” (20 February). But many villages are under threat from speculative “land banking” developers, that prey on councils that do not have a five-year housing supply.

In a House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee report on how the National Planning Policy Framework is working, MPs say it should be rejigged to protect against unsustainable developments.

They also stated that developers are taking advantage of loopholes to launch speculative planning applications, unwanted by local communities.

Our historic village of Killinghall is in a David and Goliath struggle with a developer for a further 91 homes on a greenfield site. These along with three other developments already granted will double the size of the village.

This is unsustainable  in a small village with no shop, and few other amenities.

We are a frequently used traffic route from the A1 in the north to Lancashire in the west, resulting  in 25,000 vehicle movements per day  through Killinghall.

With an election on the horizon, and many villages suffering the same fate, it is an unwise political party that would leave this loophole open.

Anna Bryer Geoff Turner Sylvia Turner
Killinghall, North Yorkshire


New echoes of old wars

What a shame that General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, doesn’t read the letters page of The Independent, because the opinions expressed there might have, at least, led him to temper his comments about the Russian threat representing “an existential threat to our whole being” (report, 21 February).

 What possible purpose could those remarks have, other than to recreate Cold War-like paranoia about Russia and justify defence spending with a view to yet another military engagement?

Bernie Evans


Norman Wallace (“Was Tokyo a war crime too?”, Letters, 21 February) is wrong in his assertion that the West has not debated the morality of the conventional bombing of Japan during the Second World War.

General Curtis Le May himself acknowledged: “If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.”

Tim Bennett
Ipswich, Suffolk