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Letters: Union reforms freed us from a hell

These letters will appear in the print edition of The Independent on Saturday12th of April, 2013

Unless you are over 70 and worked in industry, you cannot appreciate the hell of trying to run a successful business before Thatcher’s reforms of the unions. North Sea oil and gas, plus nuclear power, had replaced coal for making coal gas, heating homes and industrial use. Hence the mine closures.

The sale of council houses did not cause a housing shortage; they still existed. What caused the housing problems was the unrestricted flow of immigrants, with Conservative and Labour approval. The poorly managed, overmanned nationalised factories, dependent on vast subsidies, closed when those ceased. The efficient private industries did not close.

Blair and Brown had 12 years in power after Thatcher’s 11, yet failed to build houses, curb immigration and support industry.

TC Bell, Penrith, Cumbria


Watching the hatred and viciousness aimed at Baroness Thatcher should help remind everybody of the atmosphere during the months before she was elected. Life for almost all was miserable and insecure. Violence was rife. In particular, union members were powerless to decide things for themselves.

The result had been the ruin of industries. To take one example, our home motor manufacturing was steadily rendered inefficient by union obstruction. It vanished until the Japanese were able to start up with a clean sheet freed from the restrictive practices of the suicidal old dinosaurs.

Lady Thatcher did not “destroy the unions”; she gave them back to their members, most of whom now enjoy standards and freedom of expression that their predecessors could only dream of.

Every country has its thugs. Let us remember this lesson showing the dangers of the mob when it feels it knows best.

Ralph S Risk, Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute


The death of Lady Thatcher was a reminder of how I first became politicised at the tender age of seven in 1970.

My job in my local primary school in Newcastle, Co Down, was handing out the free milk and orange bottles to my classmates, a job that my older brothers had done for years before. Then I was told by my headmaster that I no longer had this prestigious position because of this new Education Minister, a Mrs Thatcher.

From that day on, a small seed was planted in my brain of the power a politician can have on our lives. Unfortunately, this lady had no social conscience. She will not be missed.

Paul Doran, Clondalkin, Dublin


I see that a Parisian councillor has called for a “Rue Margaret Thatcher”. On recent evidence, it would seem that plenty of British people do rue Margaret Thatcher.

Mark Thomas, Histon, Cambridgeshire


Well, “Rue Margaret Thatcher” doesn’t mean the same in French as it does in English. My wife suggests “Impasse Margaret Thatcher” might suit Paris better – but perhaps the ideal location for that would be Brussels.

Nick Elam, London SE5


Bearing in mind the comments made by David Sharp (letters, 10 April) in reference to the 32 pages of the paper devoted to Lady Thatcher’s death, I am reminded of the report on Princess Anne’s wedding to Mark Phillips in the Morning Star many years ago. It read simply: “Anne Windsor was married yesterday. Traffic was held up in London.” Food for thought?

Jim Allen, Sheffield


Rajendra Kaneja (letters, 10 April) recalled that Margaret Thatcher “… insisted on paying for her own ironing board, at her official residence”. Was that because she was the ironing lady?

Mick Humphreys, Creech St Michael, Taunton


Scandal of minor honour for ace codebreaker

I am dismayed and disgusted with the meagre MBE that Captain Jerry Roberts was awarded in the New Year’s Honours list.

Captain Roberts is the last survivor of the nine codebreakers who worked on the German High Command’s Tunney (called Lorenz by the Germans) in the Testery at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.

He was the leading codebreaker and linguist, and one of the four founder members of this team. The work, the skill and the amazing success of the Testery contributed significantly to the downfall of Hitler and Mussolini, and shortened the war by at least two years, saving tens of millions of lives.

Without the team’s efforts, my generation – with our children and their children, as well as the members of the Honours Secretariat – would not enjoy the good life we have today. Graciously, Captain Roberts accepted his MBE on behalf of his fellow cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park.

I have complained to members of the Honours Secretariat about their error in awarding a meagre MBE, and urged them to amend this error with a significantly higher honour. Their reaction has been: “We cannot do this as we are restrained by rules and procedures.”

Hang rules and procedures. A gross injustice has occurred and needs to be rectified quickly. Time is not on the side of Captain Roberts: he is 92.

Dr David W A Barrett , Hindhead, Surrey


But more organs urgently needed

There is one overwhelming reason for those being asked to donate the organs of a much-loved relative to say “yes” (report, 11 April). In another place, at another time and unexpectedly, they may need donation of an organ themselves.

We are interdependent in the use of these unique resources, and, hopefully, we will move towards a generous society where this ultimate gift is given willingly.

The recipients are forever deeply grateful to their donor and are enabled to lead useful lives for many years after surgery.

Anne Bell, Appleby, Cumbria


It is encouraging to read these organ donation results. Interestingly, despite positive numbers of donations, there still seems an issue with donors sharing their intentions with others.

I am sure I speak for many in congratulating all at NHS Blood and Transplant for their hard work in achieving a 50 per cent rise. Now it is important we build on this. There are still people needing treatment despite more registered donors.

A study by the fleshandblood campaign shows that 48 per cent of those interviewed are donors, but only 24 per cent have discussed their wishes with friends and family. We hope that the campaign will encourage people to donate, and share this desire.

Gareth Russell, fleshandblood campaign, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire


Jeremy Laurance reinforces the validity of a person’s wishes to give their organs after death. Need still outpaces supply, and living donations give the best possible results in the case of kidneys.

Most living donations are to family and friends but an increasing number of citizens donate a kidney to the NHS to give to a stranger with the most need and best match.

This is called altruistic non-directed donation. You don’t have to die before saving suffering and a life.

Dr Chris Burns-Cox, Give a Kidney, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire


Smoke clears and evidence plain

Congratulations to Gallaher Ltd for its advertisement demonstrating that there was no “hard evidence” in May 2011 that enforcing plain packaging of tobacco products reduces consumption and new addictions (9 April).

The evidence couldn’t emerge until glossy packaging had been banned somewhere in the world, and the tobacco industry has fought since the 1990s to prevent that from happening. Well, they’ve finally failed. Glossy packaging was banned in Australia on 1 December 2012, despite fierce legal challenges from the industry, and “hard evidence” will now be accumulating.

There’s already evidence from studies of smokers by health bodies round the world of the impact that plain packaging has on the attractiveness and even taste of the product.

But the tobacco industry has been fighting to discredit and deny evidence since Sir Richard Doll established in 1950 that the industry was killing millions of its customers. Why should it stop now?

Toby Keynes, Purley, Surrey


Stupid errors not confined to young

Mary Dejevsky (12 April) argues that Paris Brown is too young for the role of a Youth Crime Commissioner, based on the girl having sent unpleasant and objectionable tweets years ago. But she uses this as evidence that someone Ms Brown’s age should not even have a vote.

If we are to set the voting age at one where people do not sometimes do stupid and objectionable things, then I am not sure where we would start: 90 perhaps?

Bob Morgan, Thatcham, West Berkshire


Discipline banks

Without the complicity of the banks and bankers, there would be no money laundering, no fraud, no tax evasion, no illegal transfers and no offshore accounts. We therefore need strict regulation and supervision of the banking sector to put an end to the use of tax havens and massive loss of money which is starving us of tax revenue and causing enormous damage to our economies and society.

Peter Fieldman, Madrid, Spain


Playing the field

Professor Alan Smithers explains (report, 10 April) that one reason for the slump in boys applying for university places might be because apprenticeships can lead to a  “degree-type qualification”. Indeed. My old mucker, the headmaster of Eton, was telling me only the other day that he is encouraging his pupils to leave school at the earliest opportunity for that very purpose.

Professor Chris Barton, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire


Much ado ...

The discovery by the University of Northumbria that the herb rosemary might improve memory (report, 9 April) is only 400 years or so behind the times. “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember,” says Ophelia in Hamlet, so the Elizabethans (and those before them) were aware of its properties.

William Roberts, Bristol


Red card for us

Talk about excessive coverage. No, not Thatcher, but the Manchester derby. Two pages of preview, five of match reports and two of analysis the following day. Your Sports desk would do well to note that most football fans are not totally obsessed with the Premiership.

Tony Nash, Carshalton, Surrey