The Rev Simon Falshaw (letters, 8 July) uses the same argument around homosexuality as was historically used to justify Christian support for slavery, torture, racial discrimination, the political and economic subjugation of women and unthinking obedience to the government of the day. Not to mention burning quite a few "witches". Fortunately throughout history there have also been Christians who understand that the letter kills but the Spirit gives life. Large chunks of the Bible are ignored by the most rigid fundamentalists or the highest of Catholics.
Quaker Lesbian and Gay Fellowship,
The Rev Simon Falshaw does not represent the mainstream of the Anglican church. Most Anglicans believe in an inclusive church in which people's sexuality – which is, ultimately, a deeply personal matter for them – is not an impediment to membership. Many of us grapple with the apparent conflict between ambiguous Biblical references to gay sex and the fact that God has created a large minority of the human race with a same-sex attraction. This tension is resolved through compassion, prayer, understanding and love – not the bigotry and bile that one often gets from the religious right. Gay men and women already suffer enough from prejudice and disapproval: they do not need it from the church.
Contrary to what the Rev Simon Falshaw says, the more that the Bible is strictly adhered to, the more irrelevant it becomes, as society progresses and such views are regarded as belonging to the intellectual and emotional dark ages. It is those churches that adopt a Darwinian approach, by evolving along with the populace, that stand the best chance of survival.
Voters desperate for electoral reform
Alan Johnson is one of the few members of the cabinet in tune with the public on the need to change our "miserably disempowering voting system" ("Labour must embrace voting reform", 8 July) as the recent YouGov poll shows.
This latest poll confirms that voters are demanding a real improvement in the way MPs are held accountable and, among all the gimmicks being thrown around, a new voting system remains the only way to achieve this. With support growing for a referendum on the day of the next election, MPs who defend the status quo must now explain why they don't think voters should be allowed to choose how parliament is elected.
Dr Ken Ritchie
Electoral Reform Society
Alan Johnson's argument would have carried far more weight if he had had the courage to stand up and speak so bluntly during the first two terms of this government.
The sadness here is that the cogency of the argument he makes will inevitably be buried by opponents of AV claiming he is playing the part of the "inevitable loser still trying to share the spoils". It does him no credit to be so forthright on the subject now. It smacks of defeatism and opportunism.
Alan Johnson is indeed a welcome addition to those of us who feel the electoral system in this country is past its sell-by date. At the last election, 64 per cent of people didn't vote Labour, yet Labour got in with a thumping majority, crowing that they had a mandate. For millions like me, who live in safe seats and don't support the incumbent, there is absolutely no point in voting, and we are in effect disenfranchised.
Could there be a connection between this and the constant decline in numbers voting in general elections? Democracy is dead in this country, if it ever existed; the only way to restore it is some form of PR.
Ivor Morgan (letters, 9 July) does not like the prospect of a small party like the Lib Dems holding the balance of power after a close election result. But what happened when John Major had a slim majority and a handful of Europe haters (worse than Eurosceptics) had far too much power during his final Tory government? Or remember Harold Wilson struggling with his left-wingers in the 1970s?
Quite frankly I think the interests of democracy would be better served if Nick Clegg had the responsibility of dealing with a hung parliament rather than the nuttier elements of either big party.
Ivor Morgan objects to electoral reform on the basis that minority parties could make or break governments by "wheeling and dealing in smoke-filled rooms".
But this can equally well happen at present; in the run-up to the 1992 general election, the parliamentary arithmetic was such that deals were made between the Tories and the Ulster Unionists. And is it not better for deals between political parties to be open and transparent, with published coalition agreements (as has happened in Scotland and Wales), rather than the present system?
UK is not ready for swine-flu outbreak
This government, with all its bluff and bluster is not ready for the swine-flu pandemic. I fell ill last week and my wife rang NHS Direct to be told that the numbers ringing in had overwhelmed it and only to hang on in a long queue if it was an "emergency".
We then rang our doctor's surgery and were told to ring back after surgery hours. It took several hours to get hold of the doctor, who would not call to see us, and we had to go to his now deserted surgery.
So my wife swaddled me up and took me in for a throat and nasal swab to identify what type of flu I had. Having wandered in through the front door, I was shown out through a back door, "just in case".
Three days later, having sweated and shivered my way through the worst of the flu, I rang to see what had happened to my swab results. "Oh it will be a minimum of five days before we get any results; it's government policy," I was told. Five working days of course, so now a full week after taking my tests, I am none the wiser as to whether I have swine flu or not, and I have not been offered any drugs or treatment.
What was the point? By now, if it had been serious, I would either have been in hospital or singing with the heavenly hosts. If the 100,000 a week scenario comes to pass, it is highly likely that the government's systems will crash and we will all be on our own.
Richmond, North Yorkshire
Supermarkets and cheap labour
Without meaningful regulation of supermarket business practices, stories of shockingly poor conditions for workers, not only in the UK but also in developing countries, will not go away ("Scandal of Britain's fruit-farm workers", 10 July). The supermarkets' demands for faster, cheaper and more flexible production from their suppliers are a major obstacle to improving labour standards, as these pressures are passed on to workers in the form of poverty wages, excessive hours and the denial of their basic rights.
Fortunately, the Competition Commission has recommended the creation of an ombudsman to prevent supermarkets from exploiting their suppliers, wherever they are. Unfortunately, all the major grocery chains – with the honourable exception of Waitrose – have so far refused to accept the Commission's proposal. The decision on whether to introduce an ombudsman now lies with Lord Mandelson. He must act quickly to set up a watchdog that will bring the supermarkets to heel and put a stop to such scandalous abuses.
Trade and Corporates researcher, ActionAid,
North Sea cod not out of danger yet
Despite the self-congratulatory tone of the fishing industry, North Sea cod are not out of danger yet ("Britain's fishermen are the heroes of the recovery of cod stocks", 7 July). Any increase in a rampantly overfished population is great news. But it must be set in context – something the fishing industry is failing to do.
Cod stocks are generally at a historic low in the North Sea. The recent increases are measured against a stock that was nearing commercial extinction. We need to look at the level of cod stocks decades, generations and centuries ago. And we should be managing our seas for the recovery of species rather than snapping off every green shoot of recovery as soon as it breaks the surface.
Over-egging the recovery of these stocks and clamouring for increased fishing quotas does the industry no favours.
Greenpeace UK, London N1
What's wrong with wearing a burqa?
What on earth is wrong with women wearing a veil or a burqa if they want to? We are a country of great diversity, where people of all cultures express themselves in all sorts of ways with all kinds of fashions. People can cover all parts of their body or not, from their bellies to their chins, cheeks and hair and no one worries. But as soon as someone covers their nose and mouth as well, suddenly they give people "the creeps" and are some kind of threat.
I doubt if there would be more than a fraction of the comment if this was merely a fashion statement and nothing to do with the Muslim faith.
I agree with Brandon Robshaw (9 July) over his objection to the burqa in a situation where communication is of the essence. In western society the wearing of a mask, or covering of the face, usually implies menace or danger – it certainly creates a negative vibe. Like the very irritating use of obscured glass in car windows, which prohibits the use of eye contact between drivers in complicated traffic situations, obscuring the face completely makes proper communication impossible.
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
When people in a culture such as our own – which increasingly communicates in invisibility through mobiles, texts, phones, emails and the internet – object to a woman wearing a burqa it is just plain hypocritical bigotry.
Lest we forget, Eddie Cochran (1938-60) is also interred at Forest Lawn cemetery. One hopes that Michael Jackson will be kept well away from the legendary singer/songwriter. Otherwise poor old Eddie may have another bout of the "Summertime Blues".
The suggestion that switching energy suppliers may be a problem once smart meters are in place (report, 6 July) is misleading. Energy companies have been working on these issues for a number of years and have proposed solutions to government that will enable customers to continue to switch just as they do at present. Meters will be "interoperable" so that even if the manufacturer is different, the capabilities will be the same, allowing for a smooth transfer of gas or electricity supplier without the need to replace the meter.
Energy Retail Association,
Jamie Merrill describes Clara Bow as Jean Harlow's "rival" (3 July). This is misleading. In 1929 they both starred in The Saturday Night Kid, and there was a certain amount of ill-feeling between the two. But they soon came to see each other as kindred spirits in both their lives as sex symbols and as tortured souls outside the studio lot. After Harlow's sad death, Clara Bow later took Betty Grable under her wing, feeling that she, too, would end up another Hollywood victim.
After almost a year of unemployment and part-time work, I was lucky enough to secure a full-time job starting next Monday. With this in mind I approached my branch of Barclays bank and asked for a small overdraft of £200 to enable me to see myself through the first difficult month. I was turned down as my account has not been "active enough" recently. It seems that had I been a feckless individual, or indeed a bank, I would have secured the facility with no problems. Being a sensible sort of fellow I am punished for being prudent.
The award goes to..
No, Roger Cook (letters, 8 July), an "awardist" is a politically incorrect person who does not believe that all should have prizes.