Drugs, politics and young people: lives blighted by addiction
Sir: I am writing to you to express how horrified and angry I was at Simon Carr's parliamentary sketch ("Want to take up politics? Take up heroin instead", 9 December). Carr compares drug addiction to politics and comments that for a heroin addict: "The hours are better, you do less damage and it's comparatively easy to give up heroin".
These comments repelled me, as they will have repelled anyone whose family has had to deal with the tragedy of drug addiction. I know only too well from losing my son Hugh the pain drugs can cause. I have also learned much on the horrendous suffering of others. Instead of encouraging young people to make a positive contribution to society, Carr recommends the horror of drug addiction. Does he not realise that drugs are responsible for the deaths of 3,000 young people every year? These are not just statistics, these are our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, our nephews and nieces.
There are a number of complex issues that we need to address as a nation if we are to tackle the evils of drugs. Drugs are a threat to families and to communities because of the crime and anti-social behaviour they fuel, as well as the physical and mental health problems they engender. Drugs destabilise families and communities, the foundations that our society is built on, and generate widespread misery and despair.
Young people are very precious and worth so much more than a life blighted by drug addiction. They are our future. Drugs are dangerous and destructive. Too many young people think they can ride the tiger, but it is the tiger that captures them. It crushes their spirit, it robs them of their self-esteem, it smothers their self-confidence, it steals their dreams, it crushes their aspirations. So much for the "advantages of becoming a heroin addict".
IAN McCARTNEY MP
Chairman of the Labour Party
House of Commons
What now after Saddam's capture?
Sir: Do the US and UK Governments seriously expect anyone to believe that a man found cowering in a hole in the ground can be responsible for co-ordinating and inspiring the attacks on the forces of the illegal occupying powers? Do they really expect this problem to vanish?
Furthermore, if there is to be a trial, will those individuals who provided political, economic, technical, military and moral support to the Ba'ath regime of Saddam Hussein also go on trial, regardless of whether or not they currently hold political office? Or are we going to see the usual double standards and hypocrisy being applied which is rapidly undermining the faith of people across the planet in the rule of any law, international or otherwise?
Stocksbridge, South Yorkshire
Sir: The arrest of Saddam is an irrelevance to the stated war objective of the British Government, namely the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. Unless the international inspectors find WMDs in Iraq, Mr Blair will still have to answer the case that he lied to the British people .
Sir: The concern about whether Saddam Hussein being paraded is against the Geneva Convention is not merely a concern for his rights. If we break the Convention when it suits our purpose, what is to stop others doing the same when our troops are captured?
Sir: Will Saddam call George Galloway as a character witness?
Hadleigh Benfleet, Essex
Sir: So the return of Ken Livingstone would "maximize Labour's vote and promote Labour's values" (letter, 12 December). I don't doubt the cynical accuracy of the first assertion, but what on earth are "Labour's values" nowadays?
New Labour orthodoxy includes an implacable commitment to commodifying health and privatising education. The party has "modernised" by jettisoning its ethical framework.
If Mr Livingstone wants to rejoin this shower he proves himself appropriately unprincipled. Far from being the vehicle for a radical programme of social justice, new Labour is the biggest roadblock to it.
JONATHAN BILAL LENIHAN
Sir: Am I missing something? I can quite understand the great and good of the London Labour Party wanting Ken Livingstone back in the fold. After all, the very real prospect of their candidate finishing fourth in the London Mayoral elections cannot be very appealing. This must be especially so for Robert Evans MEP, the man who lost the Brent East
by-election. What I do not understand is what is in it for Ken Livingstone.
Sir: The arguments put forward for a referendum on the proposed EU constitution by 31 Labour MPs (letter, 13 December) are not very convincing. One is that seven member states are having a referendum; but that leaves 18 who are not. More seriously, they argue that "the proposed European constitution. . . will determine how the EU is run for the foreseeable future". That is no more true of this treaty than it has been of the several treaties which have moved the EU forward over the years - including the Single Market Treaty which Margaret Thatcher signed, and which the UK has adopted without a referendum. Other treaties can and probably will follow.
It is true that this treaty will extend European competence in some areas, but so have previous ones. What is important about this so-called constitution is that for the first time it expressly acknowledges the rights of member states and incorporates important safeguards against "creeping federalism". We shall no longer be committed to an "ever closer union".
Now that decisions have been postponed, the Government should use the time to explain why the proposed constitution is valuable in clarifying and delineating who does what.
Sir MICHAEL FRANKLIN
Sir: Your front page report on the future of Europe (12 December) rightly highlighted the four countries pressing for the place of Christianity to be included in the EU draft constitution.
Many people in the UK have real concern about this important omission. Our Government needs to hear the deep concern of people about plans to airbrush Europe's common heritage out of history. Christians across all denominations in the UK are backing a petition pressing for an acknowledgement of Europe's Christian heritage in its constitution.
In addition, a referendum of the British people on the draft constitution would be a step towards addressing the "democratic deficit" that many see in the EU. Seven European countries have said they will hold a referendum on the constitution. Tony Blair has said he wants to hear what people are saying through his Big Conversation. We say: "Give us a say on our future."
REV GEORGE HARGREAVES
Christian Peoples Alliance Party
Sutton, Greater London
Sir: The 31 Labour MPs who called for a referendum on the proposed European constitution would carry more credibility if they were also asking the Government to hold the referendum pledged in their 1997 manifesto: to decide the system by which MPs are elected.
If a Representation of the People Act was introduced, Parliament would really be representative and have more control over the executive.
Select Your Member Voting Society
Sir: Britain should not sign the European constitution unless there is a specific clause banning French wildcat strikes.
Sir: Educationists are thinking about using IQ tests to determine university entrance, giving working-class youngsters a better chance (report, 10 December).
What happened to the arguments about IQ tests' racist bias against people of African and Asian descent, about their cultural and class bias, and the difficulties of measuring the whole range of human intelligence by 40 or 50 questions thought up by a few scientists in Western universities.
Any chance of a well-funded school system with small class sizes and some real improvements to the living standards of poor families? You never know, that might just raise the numbers of working-class children going to university.
War for oil
Sir: Fourteen Burmese villagers sue a US oil giant for human rights abuses along the site of its pipeline ("Tale of rape and murder on Burmese pipeline haunts US", 11 December) and the White House argues on Unocal's behalf that the suit is a threat to the war on terror. What more evidence is needed that the war on terror is a war for oil? Or are these villagers the terrorists of which the Bush administration is so afraid?
Sir: Would it be too cynical to suppose that our troops were not supplied with adequate equipment to protect them from chemical and biological weapons in Iraq because the Ministry of Defence knew very well that Saddam did not have the capability to unleash a chemical or biological attack within 40 minutes?
Sir: It is unjust and unfair to accuse the Government of negligence in failing to equip our forces in Iraq with protection against weapons of mass destruction. Anyone would think they really believed the propa- ganda with which they misled Parliament and the country.
Public sector pay
Sir: Hamish McRae asserts in his 10 December column that money is self-evidently being wasted in the public services on a huge scale. His simple measure of waste is that inflation in the public sector is now running at more than 7 per cent. Presumably this is partly because of the increases in the pay of doctors, nurses and teachers. Does Mr McRae believe that paying such people adequately is a waste?
Sir: I received a communication from Ofsted. The covering note was scrawled in capitals. In about a dozen words there were two spelling mistakes and an obvious grammatical error. Who is inspecting the inspectors?
Rev Dr DAVID CHANTREY
Welcome to the club
Sir: You quote Mick Jagger at his investiture thus: "I don't think the Establishment as we knew it exists any more." Of course it does, and Sir Michael is now a fully paid up member.