The proposal by Lord Baker that Conservative and Labour should form a coalition of national unity might not be such a bad thing given that they have so much in common. (“Former Tory chairman calls for coalition with Labour ‘to keep the UK together’”, 7 March). Both parties adhere to the neo-liberal economic orthodoxy, which is demonstrably failing most people. They also share similar policies on fracking, student fees and a British nuclear deterrent, among others.
In fact, I would suggest they go further and formally merge their campaigns before the election so that those parties offering alternative visions and values can be given more chance of getting their message across.
I listened to various Conservative MPs concocting excuses for the Prime Minister’s decision not to take part in TV debates. It occurs to me that my disaffection with all things political stems from a despair at the scale of fabrication that our political elite go to to avoid giving straight answers. Can’t these people grasp the fact that their very unwillingness to tell us the truth is why so many of us are turned off politics? It’s not just the Tories; the majority of those in the political sphere seem to spurn integrity in favour of smoke and mirrors.
Those in the arena for whom many of us have a grudging respect, even though we may not agree one iota with what they are saying, are the Boris Johnsons and Nigel Farages of this world. These people, whether by accident or design, are so unguarded in their responses or in the giving of their opinions, that we get to see the truth of their stance on issues.
Perhaps the irony is that we as a society seem to take every opportunity to ridicule these plain speakers, labelling them as naive or politically incompetent.
It may be that we get what we deserve from our political classes. However, I for one would welcome a move to plain speaking and integrity over this bubbling cauldron of deceit and half truths which is so much a part of modern-day politics.
Both the Labour and Conservative spokespeople rule out the possibility of working together in coalition. Perhaps it’s time they grew up. The expectation that either party can run the country on its own – with less than half the voters on its side – only highlights their respective arrogance, and all that’s wrong with the first-past-the-post system in a country with multiple political parties.
I admire Cameron and Clegg, who put country before party when they formed the Coalition, which has been largely a success. Given the commonly held perception that “all the parties are the same nowadays” it takes only a little courage and imagination to see the three main parties forming a coalition based on common principles concerning the UK constitution, deficit, Europe, the NHS, infrastructure renewal, and so on. This would shift the election away from voting for the party that promises to give away most, to voting for the politicians who have shown they are best at delivering the national plan.
Peatling Parva, Leicestershire
Are non-doms really paying their share?
Before Mark Davies (Letters, 6 March) recruits me to the non-dom cause I would like the answer to three questions which he has left out of his analysis. First, if non-dom taxpayers paid £8.27bn in 2012-2013, what would the take have been if non-dom status had been scrapped? Second, and more to the point for a layman like me, what would the take have been if they had paid tax the simple way I pay it, without employing an army of tax lawyers and accountants to exploit the loopholes? Third, if each non-dom claiming remittance basis contributes 25 times more than the average UK taxpayer, what is the corresponding multiple for income?
Mark Davies’ letter, like many a good accountant’s, omits one or three pertinent facts.
First off, he doesn’t actually state what his FOI request was; they’re notoriously tight in their framing, and this affects the answers that are delivered.
Second, while he freely states the amount of tax paid, he omits the crucial amount of the total income involved, which is an altogether more important figure to be considered.
Lastly and most crucially, I would suggest, he doesn’t state whether he has a vested interest in this matter.
Mark Davies’ figures at first look very impressive. But fair tax features a progressive and proportionate system. Income tax rates currently progress from 20-45 per cent and it is accepted as not fair for the very wealthy to pay a lower proportion of their overall income in tax than lower earners. The vast majority of taxpayers are very poorly paid while many, if not most, non-doms are in the top 1 per cent. The 25 times multiple is therefore more a reflection of poor pay and inequality than generous non-dom contributions to the income-tax take.
If we were to clamp down on non-dom status most of the beneficiaries would stay domiciled in the UK and pay their fair share of taxes as do the vast majority of domiciled taxpayers. They have great jobs and lifestyles and their children are in British schools. They only take advantage of the non-dom tax loophole because it exists. A few might leave, but would we miss them? Probably not.
The flaws of a feminist icon
Natalie Haynes’s article on Simone de Beauvoir (6 March), celebrating International Women’s Day, got me thinking. I have long admired The Second Sex and much of De Beauvoir’s fiction.
But, in these post-Yewtree days, should we not face the fact that for several decades Sartre and de Beauvoir collaborated in the grooming and sexual exploitation of teenaged girls (usually De Beauvoir’s pupils).
In the 1930s the Kosakiewicz sisters, Olga and Wanda, formed a complicated double triangle with their teacher and with Sartre, which lasted for the rest of their lives. They were 17 and 16 when the relationship started.
During the Occupation Simone de Beauvoir was teaching at the Lycée Molière and she instigated relationships with two of her pupils, Bianca Bienenfeld and Natalie (Natasha) Sorokine. Bianca, clearly procured for Sartre, who soon tired of her, was permanently damaged by the relationship (see her memoir Mémoires d’une Jeune Fille Dérangée), while the intervention of Natasha’s mother caused de Beauvoir’s dismissal from her teaching post in 1943. Incidentally, in the charming photograph you print of Sartre and de Beauvoir with the Vians, Sartre was in the process of seducing Michelle.
As the dreary procession of geriatric celebrities wends its way through the British courts, we might reflect that, had they been a couple of generations younger and British, these two icons of liberation and feminism might have ended up behind bars.
London doesn’t need a new concert hall
David Lister (7 March) says that Simon Rattle will get his new concert hall. I am an opera goer, a concert goer and a concert performer. I live in London. But I think the idea of building a new concert hall here is absurd. Apart from concentrating yet more cultural activity in London, it is completely unnecessary when, for a fraction of the cost, an expert could achieve wonders with the acoustics of the Barbican and the Festival Hall. And if, as I hope is the case, the LSO and Rattle increase their touring programmes, they can experience the wonderful acoustics of the Sage, Bridgewater Hall and Symphony Hall.
On a commercial level, everyone has a real problem filling the existing concert halls. This is a vanity proposal that could end up causing Rattle more damage than his reputation can bear.
Bus and coach deaths exaggerated
In your article on Labour’s promise to regulate the age of the tyres on buses and coaches (6 March) you say that 90 people a month are killed on buses and coaches. By implication this figure applies to the UK.
If you look carefully at Reported Road Casualties: Great Britain – it is not difficult to find on the .gov website – you will see that in the whole of the last year for which statistics are available 10 people died in road accidents when they were travelling in a bus or coach.
Confederation of Passenger Transport UK, London WC2
Why use apprentices when labour is cheap?
Why should employers bother with setting up apprenticeships when migrant labour is so readily available (“The march of the apprentices”, 5 March)?
Winterborne Houghton, DorsetReuse content