Is Ukip a bubble, a protest vote, or are voters telling the establishment that they want to be listened to?
We have policies thrust upon us, including the EU, but not limited to that, such as the Iraq/Afghan war, the privatisation of our utilities, the selling off of our social housing, the dismemberment of our NHS, and attempts to impose ID cards.
The common feature is that policy has been separated from the democratic process. This is even truer as fewer of us belong to political parties, and the party conferences are stage managed to deliver policy downwards to the rank and file not upwards to the leadership.
If this message is ignored we will see more of Ukip, and the traditional parties will continue to throw platitudes on the fire of democratic despair, rather than addressing the problem, thus reinforcing the Ukip effect.
Although I am an opponent of the EU, I am glad that Ukip did not take control of any councils. There are still too many nutcases in the party and we could have been faced with plans to reintroduce the 11-plus and the cane alongside a bid for independence for one of the shire counties.
I hope Ukip will now get rid of the nutters and get us out of the EU. But I suspect that we will only get out when we have a government that realises that we cannot stay in. This is most likely to happen when the EU introduces a measure as unpopular as the poll tax.
At a time of economic uncertainty in the early 1930s, the German right negotiated with, and shared power with, a populist rabble-rouser and his party, in the belief that it could be tamed and controlled. They were wrong, as Europe and the World discovered to their cost. We face a similar problem in the UK today, and siren voices in the Conservative Party are even talking of electoral deals with Ukip.
The threat that Ukip poses to our liberal society needs to be exposed. Farage’s aim is to dismantle the project that has fostered peace and harmony in Europe for sixty years. He must not be allowed to succeed. It is past time that major party leaders took Ukip seriously (as only Clegg has so far), rather than ignoring it in the belief that if they continue with business as usual it will just fade away. They think that Farage is eccentric and a bit of a joke. That is what the German intelligentsia thought about Hitler.
Jamie Merrill (23 May) claims that 38,000 people were disenfranchised on Thursday because seven council wards were uncontested. I would guess it’s much higher, because I was unable to cast my vote for my party, as my ballot paper only had two parties on it. As it doesn’t cost anything to stand as a councillor, I might next time stand myself so I can vote.
West Bromwich, West Midlands
The English local election result poses a dilemma for pro-European Scottish voters. Vote Yes and face Scotland having to reapply to join the EU. Vote No and risk remaining in a UK which votes to leave Europe. And which appears to have lurched towards the far right. This decision doesn’t get easier as the months go by.
Diva defeats sexist snipers
At Glyndebourne on Wednesday night, unprejudiced by any of the five reviews referred to by Jessica Duchen (“No fat ladies” 22 May), because I had not yet read any of them, I absolutely failed to recognise the target of the writers’ nasty and cruelly personal sniping.
Tara Erraught was excellently cast in a great production and sang and acted in it beautifully. This was an Octavian rather different from the pantomime Prince Charming norm, but then the whole production gave a great deal more than the traditionally offered bitter-sweet love story coated with Viennese froth and spiced with comic subplot; and the wonderful music was superbly sung and played.
The applause at the final curtain, especially warm for Tara Erraught, was the best physical response there could have been to the infamous five, short of application of the sharp end of the silver rose to their Top Gear backsides, Octavian’s highly satisfactory punishment of Baron Ochs’ sexist ghastliness.
Lower Heyford, Oxfordshire
Der Rosenkavalier is set in Vienna, where being well upholstered is considered more attractive than being svelte. Paris may be the culinary capital of the world, but Vienna remains the calorie capital.
Dr John Doherty
Myth of eternal economic growth
Your caution against regarding volume of production as the supreme measure of wellbeing (editorial, 19 May) is the mildest possible, yet even that is heresy to mainstream economics.
As early as the 1960s some voices were raised against the idea of economic growth for ever, but the proponents of the mainstream postwar wisdom answered robustly. There would be ever greater health and life expectancy, there would be more and better public services, new jobs would be created to replace outdated ones, and we could take part of our greater wealth in the form of shorter working hours and more leisure.
The better health has happened (though it is arguable whether increased general production is the cause), but the rest has proved hopelessly wrong. Public services that were once affordable are for some reason no longer so. There has been some growth in new types of work, but not enough to replace the ones cast aside, and unemployment has soared from a once-unacceptable half a million to at least five times that (more, if the method of measurement was still the same). Those in work are working longer hours, not shorter, and are subject to pressures and insecurity that would previously have been considered intolerable.
Doesn’t all this suggest that something is wrong with the doctrine (no, ideology) of eternal economic growth?
Carers show what hard work means
The juxtaposition of “Diary of a home care worker” and Ian Birrell’s article on the workload of MPs (19 May) was a clever editorial move – and I hope that every MP has read both.
I have no doubt that a few MPs do work hard and, perhaps, over and above what is expected of them. But not one of them will have experienced the horrendous workload of the home carer who has to work under such conditions for low pay and no expenses, and whose job satisfaction is undermined by despair, worry and loss of family life.
I wonder how many MPs would like to take on the job of a home carer for a month so that they could experience the realities of life outside Westminster?
I challenge those MPs who advocate privatisation of care – at home or in hospital – to volunteer to accompany the writer of the diary for a month. Perhaps the first volunteer could be Iain Duncan Smith? Those who dared do this might begin to understand that favourite phrase of all MPs, “hard-working”.
Hyde Heath, Buckinghamshire
Thank you for publishing “Diary of a home care worker”. Carers have been a lifeline for my husband (and thus for me) for three and a half years and I have never ceased to be amazed at what they do, with good humour and compassion.
The problem is, of course, that this Coalition Government has cut councils’ funding to the bone, forcing them to allocate less time for individual care and to seek lower and lower tenders.
In turn, the agencies are forced to submit ever-lower tenders. I have often been reminded of a Houseman poem: “Their shoulders held the sky suspended, They stood, and earth’s foundations stay. What God abandoned, these defended. And saved the sum of things for [very little] pay.”
B J Cairns
Have we losed our irregular verbs?
The sentence “Others weaved baskets” (letter, 22 May) is an example of our changing language.
How many people remember “dove” as the past tense of “dive”? In American English it’s still correct. “Holp” was once the past tense of “help”. “Thrived” is replacing “throve”. One day there will be no irregular verbs left. Some people see this as a great loss to the language, while most don’t care. One thing is certain, the trend is unstoppable.
Long histories of hatred
Ian Dickens (letter 19 May) may wish to recall an American news interviewer in the early 1970s thrusting her microphone into the face of a Belfast taxi driver and asking for his views on “the religious struggle taking place in Northern Ireland”.
“It’s not a religious struggle,” he replied, “It’s them focking Protestants!”
Garrucha, Almería, Spain