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Friday 4 May 2012
Letters: Unforgiven Blair eyes road back
Do our politicians (or ex-politicians) all live on a different planet? You report that Tony Blair is planning to "re-engage with British politics" (3 May). If Blair thinks we have forgotten or forgiven him for Iraq and his over-the-top anti-terror laws, then he is wrong.
And let's kill this "the man who won three elections" nonsense. Blair did not win the third election. Michael Howard and his neo-Thatcherite Tory party lost it. We already have enough out of touch, demented, millionaire politicians.
Blair's office "stress the largest proportion of his time is spent on the Quartet in the Middle East."
On a recent trip to Palestine I asked the various officials in the municipalities, governorates and a chamber of commerce about Blair's input to the "peace process". Contempt and ridicule were the responses. He has yet to go to Gaza, and is viewed as totally pro-Zionist, giving tacit support to their annexation of yet more of the West Bank, all the while spending a fortune on offices and staff.
During his term, the illegal settlements have continued to be established and are so entrenched that the two-state solution is now a physical impossibility. The one positive thing about your report of Blair planning to return to British public life is that he might be relieved of his Middle East job.
Thank you for reporting Tony Blair's plan to re-engage with UK politics.
I'm pleased the news arrived in time to prevent my vote going to Labour in the local elections.
TV ranters only worsen therisk of rioting
Will the summer of 2012 bring a fresh round of riots? Owen Jones's article (1 May) reminds us of what could become a British summer ritual.
Owen is entirely correct to focus on the outrageous economic inequality in UK society as a major cause, but the worst kinds of reality TV shows are also powerful contributors. Just catch a few minutes of Jeremy Kyle on daytime TV and witness the frothing, ranting people who appear on these shows. Many of them seem incapable of rational discussion or appreciating anyone else's point of view – utterly dysfunctional, totally self-centred, and terrified of appearing weak. What kind of death-wish society chooses to exploit these traits for mass entertainment?
UK society is not falling apart just through the cynical money-grabbing of those at the top; it is also collapsing from the vacuum of values and intellect at the bottom. For fear of appearing to blame the most socially vulnerable, many commentators underplay this aspect.
Owen Jones complains that the word "chavs" insults a group of people who have not chosen to have this term applied. But there are many phrases describing groups of people who have common beliefs, dress codes and outlook: rednecks, Hooray Henrys, trailer trash, toffs and Wasps are all useful expressions that fulfil a purpose, even though they have negative connotations. The fields of sociology and anthropology would be off limits if we could not have a discussion about groups of people and apply some meaningful tag.
How British banks encourage debt
If you are looking for a reason for consumer debt in the UK, look no further than the credit-card policies of UK banks.
I am a British citizen who lives in Germany and I have credit cards with a major British bank and a major German bank. My German credit card, by default, pays off its full balance every month, so long as I have enough in my current account to cover it. This is done automatically without any action from me.
My UK credit-card's default setting is that I pay nothing and pay a fine for non-payment and interest charges. Using my bank's online payment system, the first, default option is to pay the minimum amount and then get charged interest on the outstanding balance, followed by an option to pay the full balance immediately.
Usually the date on which the balance becomes due falls on a weekend or bank holiday, and so, if I simply enter the due date, my payment will be transferred late, at which point I will have to pay a late-payment fine and interest.
In other words I have to go through a three-step process in order for my UK credit-card account to do what my German credit-card account does automatically.
The reasons why Germany is generally a wealthier country than the UK are myriad, but perhaps the fact that German banks don't have default conditions that cause their customers to accumulate debt might be a factor.
Slow moves to stop electoral fraud
You are right to highlight the extraordinarily long time it is taking to introduce individual electoral registration in the UK (leading article, 3 April). However, it is a little unfair to blame the Electoral Commission for that.
They have been calling for its introduction for many years, and it was the slowness of the previous Labour government in responding that has caused the long delay, encouraged no doubt by the lack of media pressure for action either.
Now that there is both a government legislating for individual electoral registration and a media eagerly calling for it, progress is much swifter.
You are right to expose the Electoral Commission as being culpable for the rise in fraud.
Before the introduction of "all postal ballot" I warned the Electoral Commission that their support for it would lead to an increase in electoral fraud – the lessons from Northern Ireland and emerging democracies abroad were clear. It was also obvious, for a variety of reasons, that it would bias results in traditional Labour areas.
They continued their support for a biased and fraud-inducing system. When the inevitable happened there were no apologies or resignations from the Electoral Commission
Former Treasurer, The Liberal Party, Coventry
Housing benefit favours slackers
I write in response to the letter "Shameful cost of uprooting families" (26 April). There is a culture of entitlement that pervades British society which this letter seeks to reinforce and which is not in the long-term interests of the UK.
While illegal immigrants cross continents and risk life and limb to enter the country, and in most cases, to find work, many of the working-class indigenous of this nation take no advantage of their free education, free healthcare and free housing to make themselves more employable and ultimately find work or create value in the economy.
Cutting out a free entitlement to costly central London postcodes for those unwilling to pay out of their own income for them is a sensible first step. What is also required is a heavy cut in taxation in order to provide both negative and positive reinforcement of desired behaviours among the population and ultimately increase the overall tax revenue and benefit to those in actual need.
A coup against the Tory posh boys?
Robert Davies (letter, 30 April) asks what would happen if it was the Prime Minister's conduct that needed to be investigated, rather than that of a minister in the position of Jeremy Hunt. Perhaps the solution lies with Nick Clegg.
The next time Cameron goes touring, and the Deputy PM becomes the acting PM, he could call on the Cabinet Secretary to investigate posh Dave, purely to maintain the good reputation of the Coalition. Nick might be surprised at the alacrity with which a civil servant can act, having become sick of posh boys blaming the servants. Perhaps the PM could become the ex-PM before he gets back to chat with the acting and de facto PM.
No need to vote for the Lords
Thank goodness some people are speaking up against the proposal of an elected House of Lords. I am in full agreement with the views of Andrew George and Nabil Shabka (Letters, 24 April). The purpose of the second chamber is to independently scrutinise the proposals put forward for their fairness and practicality.
Surely this is best done by people who have gained valuable life experience and demonstrated judgement and integrity through their achievements in various fields other than politics. Appointment could be by an independent body or a cross-party committee. Reform of the Lords yes (it's long overdue), but an elected chamber no.
Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire
Fifty years of philosophy
Swindon's Philosophical Society was founded by Tom Anderson (died 2002) et al in 1963 ("The getting of wisdom", 1 May). Messrs Merrison, Eddy and Little are the Chairman, Hon. Pres., and Secretary respectively. They charge £2 to attend, but students can come for free. There are around 30 meetings every year, from mid-September through to late May.
Next year will of course be the Society's 50th anniversary. Are there any other philosophy groups which have been in existence for 50 years or more?
Nicholas E Gough
Sucking up to the Labour Party
Surely it is not fair to accuse the Labour Party of having sucked up to "press baron" Robert Maxwell (Letters, 2 May). He was, after all, a Labour MP and therefore presumably sucked up to them at some point.
Careers crowned by poverty
Would you please, please, desist from using headlines such as "Half of over-50s will be forced to work until age 77" (28 April). Who on earth do you imagine is going to be recruiting such people? What will actually happen is that, as now, over-50s will lose their jobs, fail to find another, and likely be left in poverty not just from state pension age but for several years before that.
Toffspeak in the Thatcher years
Following Roy Evans (Letters, 1 May), my candidate for posh speaker is William Whitelaw who, throughout his tenure as Home Secretary, called the guardians of the law "the pleece" (to rhyme with that which you shear off a sheep).
From James Lawton in 2 May's Independent: "... a South Africa still under the yolk of apartheid." As distinct, presumably, from the white.
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