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Saturday 13 November 2010
Letters: Welfare Cuts
Welfare cuts help the rich
Iain Duncan Smith's announcement about benefit sanctions ("Jobless who refuse work will lose benefits for up to three years", 11 November) is only one of a whole raft of cuts that will affect the poorest.
At the same time, the Coalition scares us with the possibility of a mass exodus of high-earners if we try to claw back any money from them, and fails to point out that the multi-national corporations are the real scroungers, as most avoid paying taxes while the Government continues to subsidise them by keeping corporation taxes low. We are being held to ransom even though roughly three-quarters of the budget deficit is lost in tax avoidance by corporations each year.
Iain Duncan Smith has proudly declared this the greatest shake-up of the welfare system since the Beveridge reforms. He's right. The system of welfare support that my parents were entitled to is being taken back so that we can subsidise the rich.
IDS's proposals to have the "unemployed" working for their allowance will run into problems. They won't be the unemployed any more. Won't they tend to put those already in work out of work?
I'd encourage those worried about these rather gung-ho ideas of the minister to bide their time. It'll all get watered down as Coalition MPs learn how much it's going to cost. And speaking of the Coalition, I sense the Lib Dems will disappear off the map at the next general election.
The saddest thing is that the Government is doing one of the oldest, shabbiest things in the history of human organisation: attack the vulnerable and blame the victim.
Lydbury North, Shropshire
I understand what happens when someone refuses to turn up for work offered. But how many times do they have to be sacked before their benefit is withdrawn?
"I'm doing my best." Who decides when that is true and when a lie? And how? The new system may well offer people who want to work a much-needed opportunity to do so and that's great. It is doomed to failure with those who don't: many of whom have proved that they are highly resourceful at exploiting any system.
I see the appeals and tribunal industry eating into any savings on this one.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
Students' day of hope hijacked
I was in London on Wednesday to meet a friend at Somerset House. On leaving Holborn underground station, walking down Kingsway, I could hear drums, whistles and shouting ahead. As I entered the Strand I met the protest march coming towards me. Faced by the large crowd of chanting, banner-waving students I felt a twinge of fear but this left me as we passed each other. They were open-faced, enthusiastic and passionate young people with a message.
Later in the day I found myself again walking with the protesters. This time just in twos and threes, banners furled, hurrying to catch their transport home.
On the train from Liverpool Street to Stowmarket I got talking to a young man who had been on the march.
"It was brilliant," he said. There was a moment when he had raised his arm and issued a rallying call – it had been followed by a huge cheer from the crowd behind him. His image was already on the web page of a newspaper.
But then the anarchists had arrived – swearing, fighting, using violence and ruining everything, hooded and hiding their faces. Where were the press cameras pointing now? Just take a look at the front page of Thursday's Independent.
I felt very sorry for him and the many thousands of students who came to London to protest peacefully. I ask your readers to look beyond the thugs and violence to the hopes and aspirations that may be dashed when government policies are implemented.
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Can we please stop calling the protesters at 30 Millbank anarchists? Though black and red flags were flown from the roof, most of the crowd that I saw on the ground appeared to be simply students expressing understandable anger at policies with no electoral mandate.
It is hard to condone those acts of violence which endangered life, but you do not need to be an anarchist to understand why young people might resort to direct action when electoral politics have so patently failed to represent the will of the voters.
Dr Liam Connell
University of Winchester
It is good to know that Alex from Worcestershire, the 16-year-old protester, who opined that "This is fucking annoying ... People are really pissed off" (report, 11 November) was "very well spoken" . Around here we find it makes such a difference.
Against war on Poppy Day
As I'm sure D J Taylor really knows ("Still we remember", 11 November), it is not physical courage that pacifists find barbarous, but the organised mass killing of our fellow human beings which is an integral part of war.
It is indeed disturbing that contemporary society seems to be eroding our community spirit and promoting selfish individualism. What is needed, however, since both our wars and our consumption now have the potential for global destruction, is not national pride and solidarity, but concern for humanity itself. We are not Britons fighting Germany (or Argentina, or Iraq), but people, whose enemies include greed, intolerance and militarism.
We should certainly honour the fallen, and respect the courage, physical and moral, of our armed forces. But we should not abuse that courage by sending them to risk their lives, and destroy the lives of others, in unnecessary and illegal wars.
Chair, Movement for the Abolition of War
I am Hungarian, and in the Great War my ancestors fought on the side of the Central Powers. We lost the war and as a consequence we lost 75 per cent of our territory. In spite of this historical grievance, on Remembrance Day I wear a poppy because I recognise the wartime sacrifices of the armed forces and civilians regardless of their nationality.
I also do so because I respect my adopted country, the United Kingdom, and its generous people who have shared with me their precious freedoms which have been and are protected by British soldiers. Those who were burning poppies on Thursday and obviously cannot accept these rights and liberties perhaps ought to be reminded that they are not prevented from leaving the country they so much hate.
Miklós Cseszneky de Milvány
Security insanity at the airport
As a fan of the Howard Jacobson column in the Saturday Independent my wife frequently reads me the best lines. I usually approve.
Last Saturday, while waiting at Faro airport, I had the opportunity to read the entire column on airport security. I acknowledge his opinion that we should all do as we are told (even when that means my wife taking off her sandals while I walk through wearing "cowboy boots") but draw the line at his remark about the toothpick holder. On 30 October at Belfast International airport I had my pound coin holder (which I have carried and explained the contents of at numerous airports over the last quarter-century) taken from me. Howard's toothpick holder may resemble a bullet; my pound coin holder is vaguely like a shotgun cartridge. However, it could have contained nothing except the 10 pound coins I removed from it when asked.
Thirty-five years of experiencing pseudo-security in Northern Ireland did not prepare me for this. Is the world now a safer place?
Perhaps Mr Jacobson would accept that people who "do what they are told" may be pushed too far?
Thomas B Cole
Carryduff, Co Down,
Idiotic joke about stoning
I'll give him the benefit of the doubt; Gareth Compton may not be a racist when he says it would be a blessing if Yasmin Alibhai-Brown were stoned to death. However, contrary to what Yasmin herself writes (12 November), he is an idiot, and he is certainly not a gentleman.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in her comment (12 November) should have taken more care than to write: "We are in a post-Jeremy Clarkson universe, where men think they can only be men if they insult people." Some men maybe, all men certainly not.
The moment some twit opens his mouth and declares an intention to blow up the world or eat the Pope, some overbearing official with no sense of the difference between wishes and plans decides to prosecute. It's like being at airport security every day of the week. Will everyone please calm down?
Your weather forecast for "gentle winds" in Northern Ireland today (11 November) rather missed its mark, unlike the tree which fell on my car in Co Fermanagh this afternoon.
Ballyshannon, Co Donegal,
I'm not sure if it's just me, but didn't we seem to have better weather before the Coalition formed the present government?
Eastbourne, east Sussex
Perspectives on Clegg and compromises
Give the policy a chance to work
Like Johann Hari ("Clegg, the man who betrayed us all", 12 November) I also went to Cambridge University from a working-class background. In my case it was in the early 1960s, when only a few institutions offered degree courses, compared with the massive number today.
I had what was called a full county council grant, which just about covered me in term time but which I needed to supplement with paid work during the rather long holidays.
A decision was taken many years ago to expand the university system and to offer more places to students who, in my day, would never have dreamed of further study. I applaud this. However, to finance such an expansion purely out of state funds must always have been unsustainable in the long run, and particularly in the present economic climate.
I am a Lib Dem councillor. If I had been standing for election to Parliament last summer, there is no way I would have given a hostage to fortune by signing a pledge not to increase fees for university students under any circumstances.
As regards Mr Hari's comment about Nick Clegg's betrayal of his principles, I would advise him to wait and see whether or not the present strategy will work. I don't particularly like what is happening, but something has got to be done to get us out of the mess, so let's roll up our sleeves and try to make it work instead of whingeing on the sidelines.
No excuses: he has let us all down
I had begun to think that nobody cared; that the swingeing cuts – too soon, too deep – were going to be accepted without a whimper. Students and young people have shown us that they do care very much, and so they should. They and we were sold a line during the May election that without deep and swift cuts "our grandchildren" would still be paying off the deficit in years to come. No one said it would be our children (and the poor) now.
While no one condones violence or damage to property, I do understand just how let down our young people must feel, having voted for Clegg only to find that once in power he was only too ready to break a pledge. Clegg let us down; feeble excuses won't cut it. I'm sure the electorate of South Yorkshire will understand only too well too.
How much regret?
Now that Nick Clegg "regrets" making promises before the election, should he not be honourable and step down so that he can seek re-election?
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