Letters: Whitehall's waste

Catastrophic waste of money in Whitehall
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Gordon Brown's attack on top-level civil servants' excessive pay (report, 8 December) completely misses the point. It is not how much they earn that is the issue but the quality of their judgement, advice and management skills.

An outstanding example is the plan to computerise NHS patient records. The cost of this system has risen to a staggering £12.7bn since being launched in 2002 at a projected price of £2.3bn. And Alistair Darling now tells us (report, 7 December) that it "isn't essential to the front line". What on earth is it for?

Excess pay is a drop in the ocean compared with the catastrophic waste of taxpayers' money resulting from hopeless decision-making and oversight exemplified by this and other similar public sector projects.

David Bracey

Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire

If the Prime Minister is serious about making £12bn of efficiency savings, he should start by abandoning plans to waste £25bn on a nuclear missile system we do not need and the vast majority do not want.

The position of Labour and the Tories in arguing for Trident is untenable in these difficult financial times. Labour must focus its cuts on unnecessary and unaffordable white elephant projects such as Trident and ID cards. And in the teeth of a recession Labour must rule out slashing front-line services like health and education, and cutting capital investment.

The UK government's catastrophic financial failure underlines the need for Scotland to have responsibility to run its own affairs, with the ability to take the decisions needed to reflate the economy, contribute to recovery and overcome the Downing Street downturn.

Alex Orr


Darling drives the bankers away

The president of Barclays Bank, Bob Diamond, utters dark threats about the mobility of bankers and money ("Exodus of the bankers", 9 December) and grimly suggests that they can move, en masse, to whichever country offers them the best deal if Alistair Darling persists in taking a huge slice of their bonuses into the government coffers.

Does he really believe that the present government will pay any heed to these comments? Of course they won't. The Chancellor and our current Labour government are faced with the threat of what looks like a massive defeat at the next election, and will do anything to gain more votes by ingratiating themselves with a public who are continually baying for bankers' blood.

Why would they care about the long-term effects, when they are all faced with a short hop to the back benches in a few months' time anyway? Mr Darling won't have to pick up the pieces.

Once again, the curse of short-term "ping-pong" politics will haunt us. We'll watch Bob Diamond and some of his banking friends carry out their threat to scuttle off to Zurich, by which time Alistair Darling will be hooting and guffawing from the sidelines as the new government struggles with the financial backwash from this action.

Mr Darling will carry out this threat come hell or high water. He has nothing to lose and everything to gain. The rest of us may not be so fortunate.

Steve Mackinder

Denver, Norfolk

The only bonus most of us get is a bit extra in our pay packet to spend at Christmas – if we are lucky. I heard the other day that some of these hard-working bankers earning £1m bonuses work 100 hours a week. When do they get time to spend their bonuses?

Assuming they sleep an average of 6.5 hours per night, to spend £1m in a year they would have to spend an average of about £850 per hour of their waking life – and that's before they start spending their salaries.

Francis Kirkham

Crediton, Devon

To assist the departing bankers in reducing their carbon footprint, I am willing to pay for two underground tickets to St Pancras from Canary Wharf. For a small fee (taxable) I will even wave them off as the Eurostar departs.

Chris O'Donoghue

Epsom, Surrey

If we really are going to have an Exodus of Bankers then they should take care when they get to the Red Sea. God may not be on their side.

Ian Skidmore

Welwyn, Hertfordshire

Cult of ignorance on our streets

Were an immigrant to the UK to make the remark that the indigenous white population here were the most ill-mannered, drunken and foul-mouthed tourists when visiting holiday resorts abroad, and that they were utterly disrespectful of the culture and customs in those countries, I would have to agree.

If the immigrant were to add, for good measure, that our town centres, especially in the provincial small towns, become a Hogarthian nightmare of inebriated violent disorder in the small hours; he would be right on that too .

What he would not be is a racist for saying so; he would simply be stating the horrible and unpalatable truth. Neither is Rod Liddle a racist for his remarks about street crime (letters, 8 December). Young male black Londoners have been seduced over the years by the nihilistic, misogynistic and ultra-macho culture of the inner-city streets of the US, and this is why crime statistics show them to be hugely over-represented in acts of violent crime. Ignorance is worshipped, learning and study despised, the shallow love of money alone their only totem and "respect" (read "fear") their constant demand.

Dr Charles Murray from the US came to the UK some 20 years ago and warned that this was going to happen, that we were allowing much of the black youth, principally, but also many sections of the indigenous white population, to adopt the "worship of stupidity". Of course he was vilified and sent packing by the intelligentsia.

Michael R Gordon

Bewdley, Worcestershire

In his letter to you, Rod Liddle defends his blogged comments on the alleged disproportionate representation of young black males in certain crimes by suggesting that they have attracted an "ovine bleating of 'racist' ".

However, he omits to mention that in his blog he added the epigram: "In return [for these crimes], we have rap music, goat curry and a far more vibrant and diverse understanding of cultures which were once alien to us. For which, many thanks."

This comment, which suggests that "we" are supposed to assess a stereotype of "them" on a social cost-benefit analysis, renders all the more unconvincing his plea on the lines of "I'm not racist; it's just PC gone mad".

Sean Cordell


A safe World Cup in South Africa

Your articles "World Cup teams hire security firms from Iraq amid kidnap risk" and "South Africa 2010: The most serious risk is carjacking" (3 December 2009) are full of scaremongering by private security companies trying to drum up business. It is hardly surprising that they leave the impression that South Africa is a war zone.

Yes, South Africa has its share of crime. But the bulk of it is social crime between people who know one another, concentrated in a handful of precincts, away from the normal tourist areas. South Africa is actually a very safe destination for the almost 10 million tourists who visit each year. Of the more than 460,000 Britons who visited last year, only 23 were hospitalised (for whatever reason). A British tourist was more than twice as likely to die in Germany (where the last World Cup was held).

We have hosted more than 140 world-class events since 1994 without serious incident, including previous Rugby and Cricket World Cups. But just to be sure, 41,000 dedicated police officers, along with thousands of CCTV cameras, will be specially deployed to make sure that fans at the World Cup are safe.

After the dream draw for England on Friday, I hope that all your readers are packing their bags for a massive party the likes of which the world has never seen before.

Dr Zola Skweyiya

High Commissioner of the Republic of South Africa

London WC2

Refugee crisis shames Muslims

Your coverage of the mass movement of refugees to urban centres (8 December) has one striking feature as far as I am concerned. Most of the refugees cited are in Muslim countries. Almost two million of them are in Arab countries. Half a million are in Pakistan. About four million are in Afghanistan.

I was brought up in Beirut. I regularly visited Damascus and Amman. It is heartbreaking to see these developments.

The second common aspect is that these refugees are in countries that are either not democratic or, where allegedly democratic, highly corrupt.

The third common feature is that these are countries dealing with foreign interference such as invasion (Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and, intermittently, Lebanon), interference from the West (Pakistan, Egypt and Jordan), hegemony from Iran (Syria, parts of Iraq and Lebanon).

Having said all that, it is still a source of great shame to me to see a refugee crisis in Muslim countries when the richest nations on earth are cheerfully sitting on huge wealth funds and oil reserves and calling themselves brothers and sisters in Islam.

We can blame the Americans and the Israelis for our woes. Maybe the time has also come to start taking some of the blame on ourselves. That way, maybe we will start taking the humanitarian action needed to help our fellow citizens.

Dr Faysal H Mikdadi


Unequal battle at question time

It's about time Gordon Brown started to bite back at David Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesdays. But one swallow doesn't make a summer.

The Prime Minister is not wired in to popular culture, nor are his advisers, and he will always look like someone who isn't in on the joke. He cannot think on his feet in terms of producing off-the-cuff witty ripostes and put-downs, and takes attacks by Mr Cameron far too seriously.

Tony Blair, when Prime Minister, swatted leaders of the Opposition as if they were dozy wasps, rising above attacks on quite serious issues in a nonchalant and arrogant style.

In stark contrast, Mr Brown behaves as if he has been caught with fingers in the cookie jar, and, with a glowering Calvinistic demeanour, conveys a person desperately attempting to justify his actions.

Mike Abbott

London W4


Our man in Baghdad?

Will it be revealed that Saddam's plan for a "weapon of mass destruction" ("Blair was told Iraq had disarmed", 9 December) was the diagram of the working parts of a vacuum cleaner?

Michael O'Leary


Case for war

Following remarks by General Sir David Richards, Chief of the General Staff, about the need for strong home support for the Afghan war, it is vital that the Government should explain, openly and convincingly, to the public, that our future safety from atrocity here depends on success there. People are not now convinced of this.

David Baron

Ashford Carbonel, Shropshire

Tax on singles

The Conservative Party is astonishingly out of touch with how British adults actually live their lives. For it is not only single parents and cohabiting couples who face discrimination from Conservative Party marriage tax allowance plans. By next year, 40 per cent of households are projected to have a sole occupant. Why should singletons – wholly dependent on one income – effectively subsidise other people's relationships, including those of couples far wealthier than themselves? Isn't marriage supposed to be its own reward?

Catherine von Ruhland

Hampton, Middlesex

Lesbian bishops

Peter Forster's letter (9 December) raises the question why the Church of England is so distressed at the election as a bishop of Mary Glasspool, who is said to be a lesbian. As far as I am aware, the Bible only prohibits penetrative sex between two males, not "being a homosexual" per se let alone lesbian practices.

Martin D Stern

Salford, Greater Manchester

Fateful decade

Peter Harvey wonders what to call the next decade (letter, 5 December). If our political classes let us down at Copenhagen during this very last month of the "Noughties" an appropriate name for the next decade might be "the last one".

Toby Gilmore

Horton, Somerset