Letters: Who ‘won’ the debate? That’s not the point

These letters appear in the 4 April edition of The Independent

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Am I alone in considering the obsession with “Who won the election debates?” a dangerous preoccupation?  After all, Adolf Hitler evidently had sufficient charisma to carry his people to a catastrophic place. Isn’t the right thing supposed to be a quest for truth and conviction in one’s own mind in order to make an informed choice come voting day?

So we mustn’t gauge “the winner” by the amount of perspiration on his or her opponent’s collar. Truth is bigger than any of them. For me, Natalie Bennett had the broadest vision, countering Nigel Farage’s appalling plan to “scrap the overseas aid budget” with a pledge to raise it to a full 1 per cent of GDP.

Well said, Natalie, for if with wisdom we help the poorer countries to improve their lot, we shall, in the process, reduce people’s desire to come and share in our relative good fortune. I wish the candidates could reach beyond populist statements and soundbites.

The Rev Peter Sharp
Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire


Amid all the media froth and bluster concerning the seven-way leaders’ debate, one vital outcome has been overlooked.

David Cameron went into the debate with a massive lead in the polls over Ed Miliband in terms of “leadership qualities”. A neutral result from the debate would have meant Cameron emerging with a big lead over Miliband.

Yet the polls showed that they came out neck and neck. This amounts to a major win for Miliband.

It also exposes all too clearly the Tories’ other, much less vaunted “long-term plan”: that of the relentless demonising and character assassination of Ed Miliband, orchestrated by their media lackeys, and then giving Miliband no opportunity to prove them wrong in head-to-head debate. This latter “long-term plan” is one that the electorate also needs to know about, to inform their voting decision on 7 May.

Dr Richard House
Stroud, Gloucestershire


The ITV leaders’ debate clearly demonstrated one thing: the need for more women to be in high-level positions in politics. The more the merrier.

Alex Orr


Keep business  out of politics

By what right do roving gangs of “business leaders” seek to subvert and influence the democratic process? I refer to the letter written to The Daily Telegraph and signed by more than 100 members of this mysterious cabal.

As citizens, we all have one vote. As far as I am aware, this one-person-one-vote rule applies even to those who signed the letter.

I find it a very disturbing trend that we are urged to vote not with our consciences, not for ideals or ethics about a just or fair society, but according to what is good for this entity called “business”.

It smacks of the arguments that faced us when bankers wrung their hands about profits and threatened to leave the country if they did not get the (lack of) government  they wanted. This is the same: big business stamping its feet and demanding to run their businesses their own way.

Some business leaders would not pay the minimum wage if a government did not make them; some of them would send children up chimneys and force staff to work 18-hour shifts if a government did not stop them. Look at the way they have rushed to move the production of their goods overseas.

Elections are about the kind of country we want to live in, not the kind of shop we want to enter. I don’t see any politicians challenging this, and I want to record and protest the undue influence of these business people in democracy.

Dilys Hartland


James Moore is right (“How can the Pru justify these fat pay rewards?”, 1 April). The time has come for shareholders, remuneration committees and the next government to limit the obscene amounts paid to the CEOs and directors of publicly quoted companies.

Cameron is wrong to portray the Labour Party as anti-business. Most Labour voters – and many others in this country – are not anti-business. Rather, we are anti-excess, anti-unfairness and anti-greed.

Alistair Wood
Llanymynech, Powys


Democracy is for joining in

John Alvey (letter, 31 March) and his pals, who want to vote for “none of the above”, are typical of the self-satisfied, disengaged voters of the modern British (English?) era. 

Democracy is predicated on involvement. When I join and proselytise and vote for a party I am looking at the philosophy upon which it is based and the general direction I want the country to move in, and if I don’t like some of its policies, or the actions of some of its representatives, I do what I can to try to change things from the inside.

To stand outside it all and talk about voting for “none of the above” sounds like a convenient get-out clause for those who want to carp from the sidelines and leave everyone else to worry about how it will all pan out. 

Using obscure footballing analogies (I had to ask my husband who Harry Kane was) indicates that Mr Alvey is just as clueless about how “the rest of the country thinks” as the politicians he lambasts. 

“The country” is not a seamless whole but a patchwork of men, women, residents of Lancashire, London, and elsewhere, rich and poor, and the art of politics is to stitch it all together somehow so that it works. It’s everybody’s business and not a question of “us” and “them”, unless you sit back and let it be so.

Rosy Leigh
London W3


Harmless Prince?  We don’t know

Beryl Wall writes: “His [Prince Charles’s] concerns apparently include architecture and the environment. He is hardly a menace.” (Letter, 1 April.) But within the word “apparently” lies the problem.

If we knew exactly what he wrote to a plethora of ministers in many governments over the years, and what, if any, policies were introduced, scrapped or modified following his interventions, we would be in a better position to judge whether or not he was abusing his privileged position. After all, his utterances are going to carry more weight with our malleable, royalty-fawning politicians than those of the average man or woman.

That Dominic Grieve, in his role as Attorney General, opined that to reveal the contents of the “black spider memos” could adversely affect Charles’s ability to be King indicates that this state of affairs has already been reached, but that the public is not yet aware.

Eddie Dougall
Walsham le Willows, Suffolk


The people who don’t use buses

Debate over bus passes for “wealthy” pensioners (letters, 2 April) reminds me that here in the London Borough of Merton there is a bus route which starts in extremely affluent Wimbledon and ends in extremely deprived Mitcham. 

When I had to help to prepare a fundraising speech at the trustees’ ball of a local charity, I decided this bus route would make a good illustration of the problems of rich and poor living side-by-side in the same local authority area.

One of the trustees told me that the image was interesting “but no one who attends the ball goes on a bus”.

Shirley Pritchard
London SW19


Another government IT project goes awry

The recent announcement by Defra of yet another failed government IT system was widely reported, but I don’t recall anyone expressing any outrage about this never-ending waste of the taxpayers’ money.

By comparison the amounts involved in the MPs’ expenses scandal pale into insignificance.

According to reports which are in the public domain, the Department for Work and Pensions alone is writing off hundreds of millions of pounds and the grand total across government ought to have the media in a frenzy: but all I can hear is a deafening silence. No minister has been forced to resign and I doubt that anyone in the Civil Service will have lost their job.

Given that all the recent cuts have had an adverse reaction on so many people, where’s the public anger over this waste?

Philip Turtle
Stockport, Greater Manchester


Time to take a break from bank holidays

Every year, our governments allow the astrologers of the Church of England, a failed but still powerful organisation, to fix some of the dates on which public-sector workers are locked out of their jobs and made to amuse themselves as best they can in the rain.

Other workers are more fortunate.

They will be at their tills. I wonder which of our Seven Great Leaders would abolish the whole farrago of “Bank Holidays” and incorporate the same number of days – or more – into individual holiday entitlements.

I fear, none of them. After all, they are the Establishment and exist to defend the Church of England to the sodden end.

Trevor Pateman