Letters: What Cameron means by ‘big society’

These letters appear in the Thursday 17th April edition of the Independent

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On 10 April you reported David Cameron telling his disciples that “Jesus invented the Big Society 2000 years ago – I just want to see more of it”. A week later, you record the huge rise in people needing help feeding themselves due, in part, to benefit cuts ( “The food poverty scandal that shames Britain”, 16 April).

Mr Cameron and his class want a return to the pre-welfare state wherein the lower orders were only provided for through the exhortation of Christ to follow the seven corporal works of mercy. The rich would feel obliged to charitably donate enough to ensure their entry into the kingdom of heaven, and thus the hungry would be fed, the sick cared for, and the homeless housed through charity alone.

The Prime Minister has stated in the past that the growth of food banks is a sign that the Big Society is working, so we cannot be surprised that the Coalition continues its attack on benefits as it aspires to the days when all that kept the poor from the gutter was the benevolence of Lady Bountiful.

Colin Burke, Manchester

Round-the-clock childcare

Poor Rosie Millard (16 April) was obviously stung by the observations of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Me too! I am astounded by parents (men and women) who wish to abdicate responsibility for bringing up their children to teachers. How long will it be before teachers are obliged to give birth for time-poor, child-indifferent, would-be parents?

Perhaps, rather than constantly scrounging for scarce resources to provide ever more extra-school child care, the Government would be better off devising a child time-share scheme so that wannabe part-time parents, beset by concerns about their career, self-image and lifestyle expectations, could share ownership with others at their convenience.

Gordon Watt, Reading

Other players in the Ukrainian crisis

The Russian leadership seems to have forgotten both history and logic in their statements about the Ukraine. Russia claims that any Ukrainian use of force against internal separatists would be illegal. Are they now admitting their internal war in Chechnya a few years ago was criminal? 

Russia talks about the $2bn allegedly owed to Gazprom for gas supplied through the Ukraine, but the vast majority of this debt was accrued under the ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, who is now their guest. They should ask him about that, not the current interim leadership. 

Despite stating categorically that Russia has no agents there, they claim that eastern Ukraine is on the brink of civil war – something they could only know with certainty if they are actively engaged. 

Peter Slessenger, Reading

The 28 European Union foreign ministers who met in Luxembourg condemned unreservedly the protesters in eastern Ukraine for attacking government buildings and believe Moscow is behind these events (report, 15 April).

It’s a shame that when the Euromaidan protests were doing similar things they kept quiet. It’s also a shame that they say nothing about US State Department official Victoria Nuland’s comments that America had spent $5bn in the Ukraine supposedly supporting democracy?

Who is meddling in Ukraine’s affairs? 

Mark Holt, Liverpool

One lesson from the Ukraine troubles is the ineffectiveness of the EU as a force in global politics. Any semblance of a united approach by the EU is shattered by Germany`s gas requirements, French arms exports and Britain`s financial sector, to highlight only three vested interests militating against effective action.

A major argument in favour of Britain’s continuing membership of the EU is that if we left we would lose our status on the world stage. The Ukraine situation indicates this is a chimera.

David Bracey, Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire

if the NHS needs money, then find it

Free healthcare at the point of use is a principle which any political party worth its salt should be determined to maintain, even if there is a projected budget deficit of £30bn by 2020 (“NHS faces financial crisis in 2015”, 15 April). If more money for the NHS has to be found, so be it, and for any party leader with principle and bottle, it should be imperative to say so. What would the electorate say in answer to this question? “Which of the following is essential: HS2? Trident renewal? A well-funded NHS?”

The King’s Fund director of policy might think there is a problem with more funding because of the “deficit-reduction debate”, but he is correct only if politicians have the wrong priorities.

Bernie Evans, Liverpool

Another rule for the rich?

What more proof is needed that money talks than the concession of anonymity to the train-fare-dodging hedge-fund manager? (James Moore, 15 April.) The ease with which he was able to come up with the £42,550 defrauded from the railway stands in stark contrast to your 14 April report that there are 15 million working-age adults in the UK with no savings whatsoever. I wonder how many of them would have been afforded such latitude, had they been caught.

Jeremy Redman, London SE6

Scottish vote: don’t divorce for a fantasy

Independence movements are usually driven by racial, ethnic or religious persecution and/or feelings of impotence based on a lack of political power. Yet none of the above applies to Scotland and we have produced a steady stream of prime ministers, lord chancellors and movers-and-shakers in every field.

Far from being crushed into uniformity we have our own legal system, our own church and even our own sports teams in many international competitions.

The decision to divorce our partner of 300 years and bin a legacy of shared values, mutual respect, common responsibilities and family ties is cataclysmic. There is gross uncertainty in every aspect of “independence” and to set at risk our children’s future for a Brigadoon fantasy seems to me  entirely wrong.

Dr John Cameron, St Andrews, Fife

Philip Hammond’s claim that independence will put Scottish defence jobs at risk is more than a little hypocritical given the damage done by defence cuts already inflicted by Westminster.

Decisions at Westminster have seen Scotland stripped of military assets and serving personnel handed redundancy notices, with more than 11,000 defence jobs lost in Scotland in the last decade. Yet while these deeply damaging cuts have been imposed, every one of the Westminster parties remains committed to wasting £100bn on replacing Trident.

The first duty of any government is to protect its citizens, but the reality is that, under the Union, Scotland has already been stripped bare of conventional naval capability by cuts.

There are no ocean-going surface vessels based in Scotland and no maritime reconnaissance aircraft – that is an extraordinary and unacceptable gap, which has seen ships dispatched from the south of England to the Moray Firth in response to Russian naval activity.

That gap also means the UK is having to rely on Nato allies to help cover routine maritime patrol duties – a responsibility an independent Scotland will take more seriously.

The only way Scotland will be able adequately to defend itself is through independence, with stronger armed forces north of the border. These forces, co-operating with those from the rest of the UK in areas of mutual interest, will collectively strengthen, not weaken, our impact.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh

Given Matthew Norman’s visceral hatred of all things English, I am surprised he even condescends to live here. But grovelling to Alex Salmond is not the answer to the Scottish independence campaign  (16 April).

If Scotland truly wants independence then bon voyage; an unhappy marriage is a worse solution than a divorce and a clean break. But, like any scheming partner seeking to end a marriage, Salmon wants to cherry-pick what he likes – the pound, an open border, BBC (Scotland), membership of Nato and the EU, defence contracts, the English language (and of course the oil revenues) – and dump what he dislikes – nuclear, the national debt and the English.

As a representative of the injured party in this divorce I see no reason why we should actually assist an independent Scotland with any of Salmond’s likes, and if he won’t take Scotland’s fair share of his dislikes then I see no reason why Westminster should allow the divorce to be made absolute, let alone allow Scotland into Nato or  the EU.

It is a sad fact that, for the moment, England is indisputably Conservative territory, but that will  soon pass if the nasty party is given a free hand to comfort the rich and squeeze the poor.

Roger Chapman, Keighley,  West Yorkshire

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