Police racism, George Galloway and others

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The Independent Online

Police need support from community if racism is to be eliminated

Sir: We, the public, need to know about police racism and I congratulate Nigel Morris on his report (19 May) about the suspension of a police officer for racially abusing a Kurdish youth. However, we need to bear in mind that many readers are likely to think no further than the headlines ("Youth freed after taping racist abuse by police"; "Racist abuse PC could be sacked within weeks", 20 May) and may be left with the illusion that no police officer can be trusted not to behave as a racist.

It is tantamount to encouraging hostility in the community towards the police if only bad police behaviour is reported without also reporting the initiatives, such as Diversity Training, that the police force has installed to combat the racism in its institution. To succeed with these initiatives the police force needs balanced reporting by the media to encourage community support.

I have, for example, seen no report of the Police Diversity Trainers Conference held in Birmingham last weekend on the theme of "The Holocaust and Hate Crime". As a Holocaust survivor I had the privilege of being invited to work with this dedicated and energetic group of police officers whose specialism has been created in response to the MacPherson report on the Stephen Lawrence case. I learnt that every one of the 43 police forces in the UK has a Diversity Training Group and all new cadets now have a diversity training input in their initial training.

The police themselves are well aware of the seriousness and extent of racism in their ranks and that training for sensitivity to diversity is not going to take effect overnight. As Morris rightly says, racism is enhanced by "the aggressive policing approach encouraged by Downing Street and the Home Office". The diversity trainers have a difficult task ahead of them and they need the public to understand what they are up against give them support.



Galloway said what many of us think

Sir: Surely Christopher Hitchens is missing the point ( "Just what we need - a Baathist fused with a sectarian Muslim", 19 May). It is not important whether George Galloway contacted the Senate committee or not to deny their allegations. What is important is that by getting himself in front of the Senate committee he was able to say what the majority of people in the UK are saying in pubs and workplaces every time terrorists or US soldiers kill more people in Iraq.

Regular people loved George's performance because it was not "diplomat speak": it was George Galloway repeating what he said to over a million people in Hyde Park over two years ago. However, this time it resonated up Washington's Capitol Hill.

Reg Keys did it to Tony Blair at Sedgefield and now a British politician has wiped the righteous smirk from the neo-cons, for a few days at least. Probably it will have little effect on these people in the long term but it felt so good at the time.



Sir: Galloway's performance in Washington was truly outstanding. The power of his delivery was such that his exchanges with Senators Coleman and Levin were carried verbatim by much of the media.

The reason for Galloway's success is that he said what many of us wanted wanted to hear about the war in Iraq, especially in passages such as: "Senator, everything I said about the war turned out to be right. Everything you said about it turned out to be wrong". This is something that can also be said to our Prime Minister. Galloway, for whatever reasons he may have, told it like it is. The blunter, the better.



Sir: Christopher Hitchens describes Respect MP George Galloway as "unembarrassable" for his testimony before the US Senate. Given Hitchens' own trajectory from Marxist iconoclast to cheerleader for US imperialism, he should surely know the meaning of the word.



Sir: Until very recently I was someone of below average height, from a non-bourgeois background (these two factors are often causally related), and an admirer of Christopher Hitchens. However since reading your interview with Mr Hitchens I have become a different person. I am still what some public schoolboys would describe as a working-class short-arse, but I am no longer a Hitchens fan.



Sir: Keith Gilmour (letter, 20 May) espouses a rather oversimplistic critique of George Galloway. Clichés such as "the lesser of two evils" have their place, but not in the world of international relations, and certainly not in the tinderbox of the Middle East. We would not tolerate a police force supplying guns to the least objectionable side in an inner-city gang war, so why should we tolerate Washington helping one brutal dictator do battle with another?



Sir: The last time I met George Galloway, around the time of his expulsion from the Labour Party, he told me: "Tell your New Labour editor to stick his questions up his arse." So I think it's fair to say I don't particularly owe him anything.

But I will say this: I recall, as a young news agency reporter in, I think, 1989 or 1990, reporting on the unveiling of a memorial in a Glasgow park to Kurds massacred by Saddam Hussein's forces. The main speaker at the event passionately condemned Saddam and his treatment of the Kurds, which at that time had received very little publicity. That speaker was George Galloway. He was the only politician there. And not a single newspaper, in Scotland or further afield, used the copy. And it was quite good copy, even though I say so myself.



Praise for Post Office is totally misplaced

Sir: According to The Independent ("Public-sector delivery", 18 May) the Royal Mail is meeting its targets and making huge profits. Has anyone asked whether it is still providing a service? I used to have two deliveries per day: one before 7.30am and the other before 11.30am. This meant that I could react to my mail on the day it was delivered and I would be at home to receive any items that required signatures. Now I have one daily delivery - any time between 10.30am and noon - and have to go to my local sorting office to sign for and pick up packages, between the customer unfriendly hours of 7.30am and 3.30pm.

I can accept the removal of the second delivery as it had no real benefit to me but in reality it is the first, early delivery that has been removed in my area. I suggest that if the Royal Mail were to adopt a standard of having all mail delivered within cities and towns by 9am it would be of more relevance to customers. Having 92.8 per cent delivered "next day" is useless if the recipient can't respond to it until the following day. Perhaps some of Mr Crozier's bonus should be redistributed to non-business customers like me who now have a much diminished service and have to spend their own time and fuel going to pick up items.



Sir: I cannot believe that The Independent is congratulating Royal Mail on its performance. The collapse of our postal system is a national disgrace. Royal Mail abolished the first delivery, not the second. My mail, which was formerly delivered by the same postman regularly at 8.30am, now arrives any time between 11.30am and 5pm; items bearing the correct postcode are regularly delivered by a casual worker to next door or somewhere in a neighbouring street, and I have had two chequebooks stolen en route and fraudulently used. Several neighbourhood post offices have been closed and I understand that postbox collections are soon to be reduced to one a day. In this context the bonus payments, particularly to the higher echelons of Royal Mail management, are extremely offensive. I personally cannot wait for the rival systems to begin.



Danger of absolving cyclists of blame

Sir: David Garfield (letter, 19 May) and others who advocate a presumption of blame against drivers in collision with cyclists appear unaware of the consequences for cyclists' behaviour. They may assume cyclists will still behave sensibly because the risks for them of doing otherwise are so great, but in practice once such a presumption exists a very high proportion of cyclists consider it is up to drivers to avoid them and blithely assume that they will always succeed in doing so. The consequence of totally absolving cyclists of responsibility is that they act totally irresponsibly. Many drivers already think cyclists behave badly in Britain; I don't, because it pales into insignificance beside the suicidal and arrogant way they assume the rule of the road does not apply to them here in the Netherlands.



Ancient Athenians had real democracy

Sir: All of this fuss and bother over new forms of election appear to be based upon a false premise: the idea that democracy requires the vote. The ancient Athenians who gave us democracy consistently reduced the amount of voting required, getting as close as they could to a pure democracy for those eligible.

At the zenith of Athenian democracy the citizenry decided that only the army required "strong leadership" more than it required fairness and all other major positions were selected by lot. The lot, combined with the post-term audit-cum-trial, guaranteed an honest reflection of the Athenian citizenry and ensured that everyone in the community remained politically aware because, this time next year, it could be you.

People seem to scoff at such a notion in our modern "democracy" because we think so little of our fellow man. The Athenian people had the strength of character to trust in themselves and those selected by lot regularly rose to the occasion. Coupled with the post-election audit (that would have prevented such singularly unpopular policies as the British participation in the invasion of Iraq - I cannot imagine Blair forging ahead with criminal prosecution and ostracism hanging over him) the lot becomes the only truly representative form of democracy.



Sir: One region of a particular country had an electoral vote that showed the government party had 52.2 per cent of the vote but 93.3 per cent of the MPs. An added factor was that this region included the electoral seat of both the Prime Minister and a number of his Cabinet.

The mystery region it is not a banana republic or an ex-Communist state. It is the North-east of England, where with 47.1 per cent of the vote in the general election the opposition parties got two out of the 30 MP seats.

If a start is to be made on electoral reform, the PM should be asked about the completely undemocratic basis of voter representation which he condones in his own region.



Sir: While thinking about electoral reform, it would make sense to consider an increase in direct democracy, requiring some kinds of measures to be approved by direct popular vote after Parliament has approved them. This is much easier nowadays than it was decades ago, and would take the stuffing out of someone like Tony Blair who tries to impose policies that do not have general public support.



Wales rules, OK?

Sir: The Queen's Speech was good for Wales. The Government will increase the powers of its Assembly and will still allow both the Welsh and Scottish MPs to rule over their neighbour, England. Can someone please ask the new Minister for Constitutional Affairs, Harriet Harman, why we are being discriminated against and how much longer this will continue?



Port Sunlight dowry

Sir: In your article about Port Sunlight ("Model village split over embracing the developers' shilling", 16 May) you said that the Unilever dowry was running out. I simply don't think that this is the case. The Unilever dowry was surely such as to give the Village Trust an income in perpetuity. You also reported the "widely held view" that the financial settlement was inadequate. I do not think that the trust has made the case that it is so and I would not in any event agree with the statement; nor I am sure would Unilever.



Piano man needs piano

Sir: You write that, according to health workers, the only time "Piano man" looked "relaxed and happy" was when he had access to a piano (report, 19 May). And yet he is currently denied one, and misses the instrument to the extent of attempting to play on a keyboard drawn on paper. The situation sounds less than satisfactory. What is the official justification for the withdrawal of a piano from the unfortunate musician, and is there nothing which can be done to help him?



New Testament censor

Sir: I see, in the report on the threat of theatre censorship ("Intolerance is stifling the stage", 20 May), that the National Theatre has stated "that they will accept no attempts to censor Howard Brenton's St Paul, which details the life of the famous divinity". The apostle certainly would censor this description of himself, as he did very vigorously at Lystra (Acts: 14.14) when the people took him to be the god Mercury.



The handwriting of God

Sir: In the late 1950s, asking for the scripture section in Foyle's bookshop in London, I was confidently taken to a shelf of books on calligraphy.



Three in this marriage

Sir: A haiku on the disastrous effect of Sudoku on a marriage.

His new love is Su.

Jealous, I change threes to eights.

His revenge? Divorce.