I am no supporter of Ukip or Nigel Farage, but their rise needs to be understood in terms of the abysmal failure of our traditional three-party system.
The front benches of the main parties are mostly now filled with young professional careerist MPs, predominantly ex-special advisers with little work experience outside the Westminster village. In terms of perceived differences, there is hardly a cigarette paper between the three of them.
None of the current crop of politicians appears to speak for the average working person, and it is not only a problem of policy differences: it is the feeling of a political elite only interested in power. Many years ago, the New Labour spin doctors thought that they were being smart in helping to replace the traditional trade-union representatives who used to fill the Labour MP ranks with ex-special advisers. But it has done them longer-term harm because now they have hardly anybody on their front bench capable of genuinely empathising with the problems of working people.
The main parties are failing to connect with the electorate and that is why Farage is striking a chord. It seems clear to me that Miliband, Cameron et al do not understand this at all, otherwise there would be a conversation about real political choice – particularly on the economy where no party has yet found a way to construct a fairer capitalism to benefit the masses.
Dr Keith Darlington, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire
Aidan Harrison (letters, 10 May) identifies the irrationality of two of Ukip’s main policies. I would add two more. First, Ukip’s commitment to the market means that even withdrawing from the EU would not make the UK an independent nation in control of its destiny.
Instead, we would be at the mercy of international companies and bankers who could dictate what economic policies, degree of workers’ rights and levels of tax they accepted in return for investing here. Free-market global capitalism is incompatible with genuine national sovereignty.
Second, many Ukip supporters are angry at the pace of change of modern life, and seem to want to return to the stability and security of life in the 1950s. Yet it is not the EU which has destroyed these, but – again – rampant free market capitalism, in which everyone and everything is subordinated to the relentless drive for higher profits. It is neoliberalism – favoured by Nigel Farage – which has created rampant consumerism, crass commercialisation, longer working hours and job-destroying technologies, not Brussels.
Pete Dorey, Bath, Somerset
Some of the Ukip-bashing is painfully stupid and bolsters the view that the establishment is against it. It is not hypocrisy that Ukip don’t dictate “No Polish, No Romanians, No Bulgarians” in their job adverts; to do so would break our current laws on equal treatment. We are still in the EU; Ukip argues to leave it to stop people having equal footing.
Jamie Neale, Sheffield
The emergence of Ukip as a major political force demonstrates the effectiveness of pandering to populist sentiments. It could further enhance its prospects of winning the 2015 General Election if it were to promise to restore the death penalty, increase the length of prison sentences, make life mean life, introduce flogging for some offences and permit the use of corporal punishment in schools, lift the ban on fox-hunting, abolish all speed limits, ban cycling, slash the price of petrol/diesel, beer and tobacco, ban wind turbines and public discussion of the subject of climate change.
Rupert Bullock, Shapwick, Somerset
The really scary development that mainstream politicians seem blissfully unaware of is the prospect of Ukip electoral success enabling them to form a coalition of the right with the Tories after the 2015 General Election.
Richard Denton-White, Portland, Dorset
What the halal row is really about
The current vociferous campaign against halal and shechita slaughter of animals is a transparent excuse to get away with showing the sort of prejudice against Muslims and Jews that is no longer acceptable in a multiracial and multi-faith society.
After all, if anybody really cared about animal suffering, they’d be vegans and not having a debate about whether pre-stunning is necessary.
John Eoin Douglas, Edinburgh
In “PM refuses to get drawn into halal meat row” (9 May), a Downing Street spokesperson is quoted saying that David Cameron is a “strong supporter of religious slaughter practices”. If true, this is a shameful admission and puts him on a collision course with the overwhelming majority of the electorate. We are rightly proud of our humane policies towards animals and it ill behoves the PM to wash his hands of this highly contentious issue and dismiss it as one that the market can decide.
Russell Webb, Ringwood, Hampshire
No one has mentioned the view of the Sikhs over this sensitive issue. Along with the ban on cutting their hair, Sikhs are also forbidden from eating any kind of ritualistically slaughtered meat, such as halal or kosher.
Satinder Singh, Edinburgh
Pfizer bid for Astrazeneca
I have a prediction for you. If this acquisition goes ahead the next step will be to move company registration to Ireland where corporate tax levels are even lower. Several US biopharm companies have already done this by buying companies based in Ireland and taking on the identity of the purchased company.
Ian Skidmore, Welwyn, Hertfordshire
Women on the front line
I was amazed to find myself agreeing with my Tory MP Richard Drax, who was talking on the radio about his own experience as a soldier in the Falklands, bayoneting other young men and asking if that is what we want women to do too? (And, logically, if we want young men to bayonet young women.)
There is a question of gender equality, but there is also a more important question of morality. Do we want more people bayoneting other people? For me the question of women on the front line (report, 9 May) is about whether we want to take a step backwards or forwards. Putting more bayonets into more hands would be a retrograde step.
Lee Dalton, Weymouth, Dorset
If you want to kill someone, use a car
Your report “Ten Years in jail for disqualified drivers who kill” (6 May) exemplifies the love/hate relationship between public, government and drivers over the years.
At one time, the motor vehicle was king and to be convicted of any offence involving such a loved machine, however heinous, was a hit-and-miss affair in higher courts, depending, it seemed, on the balance of motorists and non-motorists on the jury. The Road Safety Act 1968, introducing the legal alcohol limit, was enacted to counter “there but for the grace of God” decisions by juries.
Now it has been decided that more must be done. There remains, even now, an option of grievous bodily harm, actual bodily harm and sundry other charges (mainly under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, as amended) which could be used to charge such persons who, without regard to the effect on others, drive recklessly or disqualified. These can result in longer sentences than those available under the various Road Traffic Acts.
The decision not to use this legislation is, in my view, due to a historical blip whereby any offence involving a motor vehicle was, in the greater scheme of things, seen as less important than the use of an axe, firearm or other un-motorised implement.
I write as a former Metropolitan Police traffic officer in London, where the frustrations over such matters were, to say the least, professionally debilitating.
The reduction in “road policing” is to be deplored. Criminals use vehicles to move about. The record of crime arrests by traffic officers often exceeded those by the CID.
Chris J M Walker, London SW19
Skin-cancer, study of the obvious
A recent study has found that eczema sufferers may be less likely to develop skin cancer (report, 6 May). Did it ever occur to the researchers concerned at King’s College London that eczema sufferers generally carry some of the most hideously disfiguring body blemishes common to humans. Consequently they are far less likely to whip off their kit every the sun comes out in Hyde Park.
Mike Bellion, Sedbergh, Cumbria
Workhouse for a new generation
John Newsinger (Letters, 10 May) is on the money predicting the return of the workhouse. There our ancestors learnt the value of work. But today’s version would surely need the prefix “hard”. The hardworkhouse – preparing folk to be the “hardworking people” of this country.
Jonathan Devereux, St Albans, Hertfordshire