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Wednesday 21 April 2010
Letters: Vote power
Clegg: moment of madness
Like thousands of others, I was temporarily swayed into thinking that in the leader of the Lib Dems a political messiah had been discovered.
Mr Clegg possesses what the estate agent calls "kerb appeal". He looks an attractive proposition. We did not see the true Nick Clegg, the European fanatic, who would take our country headlong into a federal state.
His ideas for controlling immigration by means of regionally selected jobs would not work. What of the immigrants who do not have jobs? He suggests an amnesty in respect of asylum-seekers when a report last week indicated that there were currently 40,000 awaiting a decision on entry.
As for abandoning the Trident nuclear deterrent, it is folly beyond belief.
My senior moment has now passed, together with, I suspect, many more.
It is surprising to see Bruce Anderson so easily rattled. Nick Clegg's performance last week, and the consequent improvement in the Liberal Democrats' poll ratings appear to have undermined the usual clarity and strength of his reasoning (19 April).
It is surely somewhat hypocritical on the one hand to chide the Liberal leader for numerical factual inaccuracy with regard to the size of the communications branch of the MoD (a discrepancy totally dependent on the definition of "communications"), only then to claim in an unsubstantiated gross over-generalisation that most Liberals lack a clear set of beliefs. If arguing with Liberals is like "wrestling with the greased pig at the village fete", disagreeing with Bruce Anderson must be a bit like taking issue with the Mad Hatter at his tea-party.
The only other accusation that he is capable of levelling against the Liberals in his article is by resorting to Tory type and waving the immigration flag. If he had listened to Nick Clegg properly in the TV debate last week he would have heard him state very clearly specific ways in which the Liberals do propose to control immigration fairly and constructively.
Political commentators, just like the British electorate, are going to have to get used to the fact that the face of British politics has changed for good – and for the better.
David Du Croz
In the light of the recent resurgence in support for the Lib Dems, should someone be considering the knock-on effects on our familiar, rather two-dimensional political infrastructure? I have in mind a possible three-way swingometer for election night, or even a radical new seating plan for the House of Commons. There must be others.
Every vote will count – almost
With the surge in support for the Lib Dems and the resulting near-parity of voting intentions for the three main parties, the concept of the wasted vote needs to be reassessed.
While it is true that the distortions of electoral boundaries mean that support for the Lib Dems will not be reflected in the number of MPs elected, it would have an effect on their influence in the increasingly likely event of a hung parliament.
We are currently faced with the intriguing prospect that the next prime minister may represent a party with a lower share of the vote than his coalition partner. But even if this were not the case, there is still likely to be a very small difference between the two and we would have a situation close to a partnership of equals.
In this event, the moral pressure to reflect this in the composition of the Government would be considerable; with the current mistrust of politicians, there would be justified public outrage if votes were not translated into ministers.
We may not yet have a system of proportional representation, but a hung parliament would maximise the value of every vote cast within the constraints of our first-past-the-post system.
Can you help me with the vagaries of our electoral system please? In Chelmsford I am told that if I vote Labour it will return a Tory MP, and nationally, a Lib Dem vote will return a Labour government. Should I vote Tory to return a Lib Dem government?
Falling under the rule of peers
Your front-page photograph of five government ministers presiding over the "ash in the sky" crisis (19 April) highlights an important detail of constitutional reform which has not been debated.
Three of the five (Mandelson, Adonis and West) are members of the House of Lords and only two (Miliband and Jowell) are members of the Commons. It seems quite extraordinary that a Labour government with a comfortable majority should be so reliant on the House of Lords to fill its ranks, and one can only conclude that, under the current electoral system, the House of Commons is failing to attract and nurture sufficient talent from which to select government ministers.
Given the pressure to curb MPs' remuneration at the same time as restricting their outside activities, it seems likely that this problem will get worse rather than better. Were we to have an elected House of Lords, exactly the same problem would arise.
Unless this issue is addressed, efforts to make Parliament more democratic may be outweighed by increasing reliance on non-elected outsiders to fill the positions of real power at the heart of government.
Volcano exposes free enterprise
The airlines' pleas for assistance because of the volcano effects underline, once again, the expectations of our so-called "free-marketers". When things are going fine, the Government must leave us alone to allow us to do what we do best, make money. When things go wrong, the Government must rush to our aid with compensation, because capitalism must not be allowed to fail.
I believe that I can better Susan Tappin's story (letter, 20 April). I am about to set off from north Africa to my home in Lancashire, using a total of one car, two ferries and six trains. Like her, my experience of ease of travel stops at the Channel.
During the few hours that it took me to arrange the trip via the internet (yes, they have the internet in darkest Africa), I watched the price of the Channel ferry rise from £27 to £68. Of the six trains, four are in the UK, and fully 40 per cent of the total cost of a journey of 2,200 kilometres is taken up with UK train fares over a distance of 400 kilometres.
Eugene Hughes writes that he is out of pocket because of a rejected insurance claim, following travel disruption caused by the erupting volcano (letter, 20 April). Apparently the insurance company cites an "act of God". I feel that they should be required to prove it.
Polanski and the Pope
Dominic Lawson is quite right in saying that there is no moral difference between the abuse of a minor by Roman Polanski and the abuse of children by Catholic priests ("The Pope is vilified, Polanski indulged", 20 April). There is also a parallel between the attitudes of the Catholic hierarchy and the artistic community in that they both seem prepared to tolerate a crime and an escape from justice.
What is different however is that, had Polanski continued abusing children, his artistic friends would have soon melted away, while the Catholic Church knew abuse was happening and allowed it to continue.
Many non-Catholics look with some dismay at the moral teaching of the Catholic Church in the areas of birth-control, HIV-Aids, abortion and homosexuality. Does this organisation have the moral authority to pronounce on these issues any longer?
Dominic Lawson sets up a false dichotomy between the responses to Polanski's molestation charge and the accusations levelled against the Pope. I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of people who are in favour of prosecuting the Pope are also in favour of Polanski facing justice.
I found John Rogers's letter (15 April) on "efficiency savings" and lost jobs most interesting. However his calculations on the number of job losses are based on average pay. I think this unlikely.
I would expect savings to be made by middle management cutting those below them. The lowest-paid would be at most risk. In this case the savings to the taxpayer would be the difference between paying people near minimum wage to do something, and paying them jobseeker's allowance and related benefits to do nothing. To save £6bn, the numbers would have to be vast.
Hurry up in the GP's surgery
The problem with strict timekeeping by GPs (letter, 19 April) is that they are not dealing with mechanical objects but with people who can be ill or disturbed.
By all means insist on promptness if you yourself are willing to be booted out of a consultation on the dot, even if in the middle of an explanation of the exact implications of a cancer diagnosis or discussion of whether your grief at the loss of a partner has now graded into clinical depression and needs treatment medically or psychologically.
How to mark England's day
While most people seem to know when St Patrick's Day is, far fewer realise that it is St George's Day, 23 April, this Friday. How to begin celebrating England's much-neglected national day?
An easy way would be gathering in local parks in the evening with friends and neighbours to enjoy the blossoms and singing English songs. It would be a great way to demonstrate how we feel about where we live and meet others who feel the same.
Fuel is too cheap
Pump prices have reached an all-time high. What amazes me is that this doesn't seem to have altered drivers' behaviour. On a recent round trip from York to Oxford, innumerable cars sped past me at 80 or 90mph. At these speeds their cars' fuel economy would be seriously compromised. I would consider voting for a party that put an additional 10p per litre on fuel and ring-fenced the proceeds for funding public transport. People can clearly afford it.
Look at him
David Bowman (letter 20 April) reports that a David Cameron election leaflet carries eight images of the candidate. This falls far short of a record. There are 16 photographs of Charles Walker, our Conservative candidate, on the election leaflet that was delivered to our house.
So John Walsh, a man well into middle age, actually cares what teenagers think of him? ("An oldie's guide to acting young", 19 April.) Oh dear, it doesn't get much more uncool than that, John.
Rotherfield, East Sussex
Perspectives onThe Independent’s new look . . .
The new-look Independent is absolutely brilliant. The last redesign took the paper down the route of looking like the Daily Mail, but it is back to looking like a serious newspaper again. The inclusion of a separate Viewspaper is also a great idea. Keep up the good work.
Newcastle upon Tyne
I found the strange new Independent most unsettling. I think it was David Lodge who said: "Reading another man's newspaper is like sleeping with another man's wife. Nothing is quite where you expect it, and when you do find it you don't know what to do with it."
I don't need such upheavals at my age. Please can we go back to as we were?
Solihull, West Midlands
Superb. The new fonts, graphics and layout are a treat. And the journalism isn't bad, either. Looks like new paper for a new age. Congratulations.
You've done it again! Having previously almost caused marital breakdown by dispensing with the magazine section of the paper, you've now put the puzzles in the main body of the newspaper. How are we supposed to split the newspaper amicably in the mornings so that my husband can do the sudoku and I can read the content?
You did have the grace to apologise to me last time you eventually reversed a new format – how about another U-turn?
On the question of the new print, I was forced to opt for reading glasses when you made the last change, so I have no problem now.
On a brighter note, your sports coverage is much improved of late, probably not as a result of my stroppy letters, but keep working on the rugby league.
What a wonderful surprise to see that The Independent with its new look and separate Viewspaper section has taken a leaf out of Dave's book of New Conservatism: back to the future and déjà vu all over again.
When do I apply for a magnifying glass to be able to read the television programme pages? There appears to be no reason to reduce type size when you see how much paper is blank. Why?
Newton Longville, Buckinghamshire
This is the last straw: I now feel compelled to cancel my subscription to The Times.
Professor Gareth Jones
King's College London
. . . and a letter from the Editor
It became clear to me that you can't please all the readers all the time when we launched the ground-breaking compact edition of The Independent in 2003. One morning I received a letter from a reader complaining that, as an arthritis sufferer, she found the new size painful to handle. Later that day, I received a letter from another reader: "I love your new-size paper. As an arthritis sufferer, I find it so much easier to handle."
So it doesn't surprise me that yesterday's postbag contained praise from some, and complaints from others. Most liked the design, although there were one or two quibbles about the front page (justified, I feel, but bear with us while we find our range).
What really exercises readers is finding that a regular feature – the crossword or the sudoku, for instance – has moved. We will try to signpost these changes better. And I also take seriously your comments about the type size.
Even if some of the changes don't please you, I hope you'll stay with us as the paper develops, and particularly through this unpredictable election campaign. As newspapers become more partisan during this period, the need for a truly independent voice is even more pressing.
To this end, every day until the country goes to the polls, we are distributing hundreds of thousands of copies of a special reduced version of The Independent free in selected areas. You will probably see one of our distribution agents, or one of our battle buses. Give them a wave. Show them you're independent. Simon Kelner
Ed Miliband insists 'Labour is still the party of the working people' as he admits Ukip is a 'big challenge'
Ukip MP Mark Reckless left feeling 'sore' after Nigel Farage 'changed immigration policy'
Kenya bus attack: Al-Shabaab militants kill 28 non-Muslims who failed to recite Koran
Rochester by-election: An expression of voters’ rage that is unlikely to dissipate
The Rochester and Strood result may make Conservative MPs ready to defect think twice
Tessa Jowell will run for Mayor of London in 2016
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