Letters: We need an alternative to this nasty materialism

These letters appear in the June 15 edition of The Independent

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May I add my voice to those who are mystified at the assumption that the Labour Party can only succeed if it becomes Tory Lite, rather than offering a real alternative to the current Government?

The latter is going to make Margaret Thatcher look like St Francis. Welfare cuts, justified by so questionable an economics as to confirm that it is driven by ideology, will cause appalling hardship. Reductions in legal aid, coupled with attacks on human rights, reveal a party that no longer accepts that basic rights reside in the person, but in property.

Boundary changes are designed to ensure one-party rule into the foreseeable future, and the arrival of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will mean that governments will anyway be ineffectual against global corporate might.

“Security” will allow the powers-that-be to spy on and to neutralise troublesome subjects who point out that the dystopian world that Cameron and Osborne will bequeath us is not one that the 64 per cent who did not vote Conservative might wish to inhabit.

All this is driven by a  neoliberalism that has no place for, or conception of, the social virtues or collectivity, even though a glance at any group of humans gathered together will confirm that these are inherent in the species.

It cannot be beyond the wit of even the current crop of Labour politicians to contemplate offering an alternative to this nasty and demeaning materialism. Nor should it be unthinkable that they offer a humane, optimistic and decent alternative to what Cameron and Osborne are imposing on a blindly unsuspecting public.

Labour politicians will be failing most gravely in their public duty if they allow the opposition to define their politics, and fail to offer a real alternative to the nightmare that is gradually unfolding.

Michael Rosenthal
Upper Brailes, Warwickshire


Like Michael Gilbert (letter, 12 June), I voted for what I saw as the lesser of three evils. I have a theory that people don’t vote for the opposition, but against the party in power; this is why Labour lost, because they said they planned to do the same as the Tories – except for the bedroom tax.

The anti-austerity voters in England had no one to vote for, so they opted for getting drunk instead.

Who are the Labour politicians talking to if they come up with the idea that they need to be more like the Tories? Because no normal voter would use words like “aspiration”, I deduce that they are talking to each other.

I have a really radical idea: organise local meetings, even in Scotland, of people who are members of the Labour Party. Include even those who are also members of a trade union. Ask them what they want the politicians to do. Write a list of the resultant plans, publish it, and stick to it if you do get into power (if you ever want to get into power again) – oh, and never invade Iraq.

Henrietta Cubitt


With regard to the comment about Tony Blair’s praise of Nick Clegg (letter, 13 June), might I observe that even Tony Blair gets it right sometimes.

Barry Lofty
Thatcham, Berkshire


Frackers still need proper permission

The Environment Agency consultation on standard-rules permits, contrary to your report “Fast track fracking without public consent” (12 June), does not relate to hydraulic fracturing. It is a consultation on low-risk well testing and maintenance activities, and the handling and storage of crude oil.

Standard-rules permits maintain high levels of environmental protection and we will continue to conduct site-specific inspections to ensure operators are not harming the environment. We take risks associated with the oil and gas industry, including hydraulic fracturing, extremely seriously. If an operator wanted to carry out hydraulic fracturing, they would continue to need a full bespoke permit determination, including a site-specific risk assessment and two rounds of public consultation. They would also need to get planning permission.

Ed Mitchell
Executive Director, Environment Agency
London SW1


Slanted view of honours and donors

You rightly led your front page (13 June) with the award of a knighthood to a Conservative Party ex-treasurer for loans and donations of nearly £7m of his own money. However, it was only at the bottom of Page 9 that we found that GMB union leader Paul Kenny had been awarded a knighthood, presumably for giving millions of pounds of other people’s money to the Labour Party.

Peter Howard
Shenfield, Essex


Balance the debate on homeopathy

At last, an article which is less antagonistic to homeopathy than usual – an interesting and fair report from Charlie Cooper (11 June). However, as always, Edzard Ernst’s name and research are mentioned.

Professor Ernst has been highly critical of homeopathy in the past 25 years. His position at Exeter University gave him a great platform to preach from. But his views were constantly challenged, and now his work has been examined by another professor – one with no vested interest in homeopathy.

Professor Robert Hahn is a Swedish physician, scientist and professor of anaesthesiology and intensive care medicine at Linkoping University. His curiosity was aroused by a highly emotional debate about homeopathy on Swedish television. When he examined work by Ernst and other high-profile critics of homeopathy he stated: “I’ve never seen a science writer who was so obviously biased as Edzard Ernst.” 

Ernst’s criticisms of homeopathy have always been reported by the media, but there is much good evidence of its efficacy from other researchers which is rarely or never reported.

Professor Hahn concluded that clinical trials of homeopathic remedies show that they are most often superior to placebo, and that researchers claiming the opposite rely on extensive invalidation of studies, adoption of virtual data, or inappropriate statistical methods.

Jane Hurley
Teignmouth, Devon


Sorry means a lot to the abused

I’m a woman with a transgender background who ran for Parliament and was subject to a personal attack by Rod Liddle in The Sun and then victimised by him in the newspaper when I complained.

In his article about “apologies” (“It doesn’t hurt to say sorry – but only when there is genuine regret”, 1 June) Will Gore tried to use the example of my upheld complaint to excuse the fact that the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) does not have the power to require newspapers to publish an apology when they have been found by their own regulator to have breached their own code of practice, and caused harm or hurt to someone innocent, and where that person would like an apology.

Ipso could have been given the power to make the publication of such apologies a contractual obligation, just as it does for the publication of its much longer adjudications.  This is what Leveson recommended, and it is what the victims of press abuse, the public and newspaper readers want. But the newspapers that designed Ipso rules rejected this, just as the Press Complaints Commission (in which Mr Gore held a senior position) did. Ipso is bound to fail to gain public confidence for the same reason the PCC failed.

While it is true that newspaper bullies like Mr Liddle and The Sun cannot be forced to feel regret, that may not be important to the victim. The fact that a newspaper prints an expression of regret, when it has been found to have broken its own rules and caused harm, matters to many of us on the receiving end of abuse.

As Deputy Managing Editor with responsibility for reader complaints, Mr Gore should put himself in our shoes, not those of the newspaper executives he seeks to defend.

Emily Brothers
Sutton, Greater London


Win, win idea for Greece

Would it be possible to lease an island from Greece to house the migrants, where they could stay and be fed, clothed, taught European languages, educated and trained for work, before finding asylum elsewhere? This could be paid for by the EU and the UN and would go some way towards solving Greece’s financial problems.

Rosanne Bostock


Good offence and bad offence

What a difference between reaction to the backpackers who desecrated the holy mountain on Borneo and to the punk group Pussy Riot who committed offensive acts in the Cathedral Of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. It’s widely accepted that the backpackers did wrong, while Pussy Riot were feted in the West for their freedom of expression.

What a difference a country makes.

S Matthias
London SE1