Prince Charles, Bush state visit and others

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The Independent Online

Leave the Prince alone - he's our greatest ambassador

Sir: During the last three days, I have personally witnessed HRH Prince Charles doing an immense amount of good for the UK - for our overall image and for our businesses and thus for the creation of employment opportunities both at home and abroad. Since Thursday, your readers will have seen many photographs and live TV coverage of just some of the ways he has generated universal goodwill for the UK in Oman.

Professional, witty and tireless, he has charmed dozens if not hundreds of senior and influential Arab ministers and businessmen that are important to Britain. He has endeared himself and thus the UK, to ordinary school children, sick and handicapped children and mature students of over 50 nationalities. Without his faltering once, all concerned with their welfare or education have been won over by Prince Charles's sincerity and charisma.

He has made me and hundreds of Britons here proud. More relevantly, all Britons here will agree, he has seemingly, without touching political issues, erased much of the mistrust of Britain engendered by our politicians' clumsy handling of the Iraq and Palestine issues.

The press should welcome him as a hero, not as an outcast. He is perhaps Britain's greatest ambassador- yet the media hounds him. They are undermining one of our greatest assets. Give him a break - he does not deserve this.

Muscat, Oman

Bush state visit resented by many

Sir: The unprecedented decision to offer a state visit to a first-term US president, and one whose policies and conduct are deeply resented by significant numbers of Britons, must call into question the soundness of Tony Blair's judgement.

Much has been made of the need for this country to maintain cordial relations with its most powerful ally, but while we agonise over the potential loss of sovereignty implicit in the new European constitution, few in government seem to recognise, or question, the de facto loss of our independence to the US.

Few seem to remember the damage to small industries such as knitwear and Sheffield special steels by punitive US tariffs, because we and our EU partners refused to accede to American demands over Caribbean bananas.

Militarily, Tony Blair has failed to make any real protest over America's abrogation of the ABM treaty and indeed has allowed the US military to reactivate Fylingdales as part of its Nuclear Missile Defence programme. On Iraq, Tony Blair was plotting to support George Bush in this legally questionable venture regardless of the reality of any threat from any Iraq.

Finally, our "partner in freedom" will have read this e-mail before you do, thanks in part to the unfettered access offered by successive governments of our telephone and cable systems to the US listening posts at Chicksands and Menwith Hill.

Given the damage which favouring US interests over our own does, the question must be asked of Tony Blair, not "when", or "how", but "why?"


Sir: Mr Blair has reminded us (Podium, 11 November) that without the war the Iraqis would still be living under the lash of Saddam Hussein. Well yes, that's the point, tens of thousands would still be living, not to mention our own and America's military "casualties". And without the 10 years of softening up with no-fly-zones and sanctions half a million Iraqi children would still be living.

Millions around the world live under cruel dictatorships, but we haven't chosen to invade their countries. Next week's demonstrations will not be anti-American, but against the corrupt clique surrounding and including president Bush, and the smaller, but equally corrupt, clique in this country which lied and abused the democratic processes to take us into war in defiance of international and domestic law.

London SW19

Sir: George Bush makes a speech calling for democracy in the Middle East; a few days later he promises to support the House of Saud; Blair makes a speech calling for differences about Iraq to be put behind us but does not mention weapons of mass destruction.

Am I missing something?

Selby, North Yorkshire

Autism help

Sir: I share the regret expressed by parents of children with autism (Letters, 4 November) at the lack of psychiatric and psychological help for their children. This is linked to the closure, by many local education authorities, of their Family and Child Guidance Services.

In the 1970s I was the psychiatric member of a multidisciplinary child guidance team whose other members were the educational psychologist and psychiatric social worker - all of us employed by Oxfordshire LEA. When a boy with Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism, persistently flooded his school cloakroom, his headmaster reluctantly excluded him. The educational psychologist recommended a home teacher, who had formerly been a full-time member of the school staff. Gradually we built up an education programme tailored to the special needs of this child.

As more children with autism were referred, a separate base on the school campus became necessary. The ethnologist Professor Tinbergen had a special interest in autism and generously gave us a portable hut from his Nobel Prize money. We now have seven similar bases on mainstream Oxford schools. Here children are taught one-to-one or in small groups . Older teenagers can be alarmed by the large numbers and noise of secondary schools.

Costly as are these provisions they are insignificant compared to the former practice of keeping young people with severe autism in mental hospitals.


Welcome rate rise

Sir: I read, with a somewhat wry smile, the headline of your editorial ("Prepare for a more brutal rise in interest rates"). As a pensioner I, along with many thousands of similarly placed adults, rely on the interest from deposit accounts to augment pension payments and maintain an acceptable standard of living. In the last two to three years these interest payments have decreased alarmingly.

Assuming that building societies and banks reflect this week's rise (and any future rises) in the bank rate with a similar rise in savings account interest, I am sure that there will be many in the country who will welcome the Bank of England's decision.

Cranleigh, Surrey

Sir: It is futile to blame lenders for the credit and mortgage explosion ("Be warned: the housing market is about to crash", 5 November). The responsibility must lie with the Government and Bank of England, and their policy of reducing interest rates every time borrowing looked like flagging - or even when it wasn't, witness July's "precautionary" cut.

London NW5

Middle East elites

Sir: The opinion Mark Mazower ("Democracy in the Middle East won't favour the US", 10 November) attributes to 20th-century liberals is right: "War is the result of the self-interested manoeuvrings of repressive elites." Why does Mazower not apply such insight to the repressive elites of the Arab world, calling instead for democratic Israel to be pushed into a peace deal?

The Arabs' war with Israel is an excuse for the repressive elites of the Arab world to incite their masses against a common enemy. It is a symptom, not the cause, of their failure to implement social and political reforms.

London SW5

Sir: Robert Fisk asks whether bias is operating against Hanan Ashrawi in Australia, where a peace prize is apparently to be withdrawn from her ("Since when did 'Arab' become a dirty word?", 4 November).

While she may have condemned bombers who have killed civilians in Israel, as Robert Fisk states, is this sufficient to warrant such a prize? I frequently do the same but no one has yet suggested that I be so honoured. She on the other hand is in a position to influence those who might perpetrate such acts but I did not see in Mr Fisk's article any evidence that she had been successful, and therefore more deserving.


Voyeuristic drama  

Sir: The TV reporter said proudly "We've got reporters all over Soham" on the day of the jury visit. Reporters all over Soham? How thoroughly undesirable. Proper reporting of the trial is one thing. This whipping up of drama in some sort of Roman spectacle for the media is quite another. And do the families of the two tragic little girls really want their happy smiling faces to be reproduced day after day? I doubt it. What sort of voyeuristic society are we being invited to become?

Kirtlington, Oxfordshire

Artist in the kitchen

Sir: Your feature on gastropubs (10 November) reminded me of a recent experience. On a visit to a Kent village pub a polite request for more dressing on her mushroom salad from an Italian lady in our party produced an irate person from the kitchen saying she "wasn't having the customers redesigning her dishes". Gastropubs? Not for me.

Croydon, Surrey

Speed kills

Sir: So L J K Selright thinks speed limits waste life ("Speed limits waste life. They are just a tool of repression" 8 November). Does he really think that if the man who killed my daughter had been travelling at 100mph instead of only 94mph when he crashed into her, my daughter would still be here to hug her children? Shame on you sir!

Llandinam, Powys

Humber pride

Sir: Your correspondent (letter, 10 November ) describes "the ill-named Radio Humberside" as part of a discussion on the demise of the former county council that chose to share the name "Humberside" for some years. I would point out that BBC Radio Humberside existed for some years before the county council adopted the same name. No nasty legacy to be forgotten here. I'm delighted to report that as the region's most listened-to radio station, the label on this particular can seems to describe quite nicely what it contains.

Managing Editor
BBC Radio Humberside

Tory team

Sir: So, Michael Howard has only 12 members of his shadow cabinet. Is this going to be the Dirty Dozen or the Disciples of St Michael? Time will tell.

Bebington, Merseyside