Southern 'dynamism': an unspeakable northern wastrel hits back
Southern 'dynamism': an unspeakable northern wastrel hits back
Sir: It was with no little amusement that I read the musings of David James on the pressing need for us state-employed or benefit-dependent layabouts from the North to get on our bikes and cease our unconscionable scrounging off the "dynamic" Tory population of the South (letter, 10 May).
Leaving aside the intriguing question of whether a state sector nurse or teacher contributes more to society than some braying swine in a pinstriped suit who cheerfully mis-invests other people's savings for his obscenely well-remunerated living, I am delighted that Mr James appears to be resident on the Isle of Man. As the denizens there live in a bizarre 1950s-throwback time warp and notoriously fail to embrace "non-white ethnic backgrounds" or "non-heterosexual preferences", unlike those apparently modern, tolerant and well-educated southerners he so lauds, he seems to me in no position to pontificate on the issue.
In any case, by virtue of his location, I assume he doesn't even pay the taxes we fork out for the upkeep of these unspeakable northern wastrels, so from this (private-sector employed) northerner living in London, may I suggest that this Commonwealth interloper show his commitment to the solid conservative principles he seems so fond of, by keeping his nose out of British affairs.
Blair 'listens' and goes his own way
Sir: Ms Hughes and Mr Blunkett - resigned because of untruths and half truths in the last government, brought back in this. Mr Adonis - not elected but brought in and elevated to a peer.
Can we ask why he was so elevated? Are we in 1997 or 2001? No, we are in 2005 when Blair listened to the people for all of, ooh, two hours, and then went his own merry way again regardless of the electorate, for which he shows once again, complete and utter contempt.
He is an absolute disgrace to the Labour Party and one can only hope that his ego, like that of Maggie, will be cut down not just in 12, 24 or 36 months' time but now, by Labour politicians who still have decency and integrity and realise that he has none.
Sir: With the election over, perhaps we could all return to this planet. There have been 19 elections since the Second World War and in only seven of them has the winning party achieved a larger majority than this one (4 Labour, 3 Conservative.) Clearly, the election was not the disaster for Labour which some would have wished, and Tony Blair is not quite the liability which some think he is.
David Blunkett is right when he says people are trying to "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory". They should learn some lessons from the Conservative government of 1992, which put us through five years of infighting, only to usher in a Labour landslide in 1997. Memories are short.
Sir: Immediately following the election, when Mr Blair may have been somewhat shaken and contrite after the loss of so many Labour MPs, he told us that the voters on the door step had given him a message that he intended to listen to.
I'm willing to bet that the voters on the doorstep didn't demand identity cards and other restrictions on personal freedom, university top-up fees, the first step to NHS privatisation, foundation hospitals, and support of weak private health care companies with millions of taxpayers' money, or the first step to privatising education, via city academies. However Mr Blair is now telling us that he intends to push through that programme. Is Mr Blair's statement that he had listened to the people on the doorstep just another untruth?
Sir: Tony Blair has conducted an election based on fear, with a relentless focus on Michael Howard, misleading claims on Tory health and economic policy and fibs about the effect of low turnout.
These tactics were all designed to minimise the catastrophic effect of the Iraq war, amongst other issues, on Labour's national support. Despite (or perhaps because of) the scaremongering, a record 78 per cent of the voting population either backed a different party or stayed at home.
Our circus of an electoral system awards this loathed government a comfortable majority, but the next likely big vote, the European referendum next year, will produce a brutally precise result. By staying in power for a "full term", Blair recklessly undermines the "Yes" lobby by association with himself and his misdemeanors. If the result is as important as he says it is, he has no option but to resign before the campaign gets under way.
Henry V seeks advice on Iraq
Sir: Now that the shouting is over, we can reflect calmly on what we have heard as new information has come to light about the Prime Minister's decision-making process on Iraq. We could do worse than turn to William Shakespeare for some lessons on leadership and trust.
Shakespeare shows us Henry IV on his deathbed advising his young son to "busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels", and this he sets out to do by attempting to unite the thrones of England and France. Before he goes to war, however, the young Henry V takes advice from men of religion and law about the validity of his claim, but he gives a clear warning to his counsellors about the quality of the advice he is seeking.
And God forbid, my dear and
That you should fashion, wrest
or bow your reading,
Or nicely charge your
With opening titles miscreate,
Suits not in native colours with
For God doth know how many
now in health
Shall drop their blood in
Of what your reverence will
incite us to.
Therefore take heed how you
impawn our person,
How you awake our sleeping
sword of war.
Shakespeare was writing about a powerful and eternal archetype of kingship that crosses all cultures and ages. We transgress against these archetypal lessons at our peril. It would seem that Mr Blair's advisors did indeed "bow their readings", and in doing so they "impawned the person" of the Prime Minister, and much blood was indeed dropped.
Neither the Prime Minister nor we should be at all surprised that the trust issue remained at the heart of the election. The Labour victory will do nothing to change this.
Right to vote lost in the post
Sir: I am writing to express my concern over my missing postal vote and some worrying details I learned when telephoning to report the loss.
The papers arrived at my permanent address after being dispatched from the Bridgnorth electoral office on 20 April. The papers were then forwarded to my current address in London, but never arrived. I telephoned the office in Bridgnorth on 3 May and was told that there was no way to tell if someone else has returned my ballot paper fraudulently; that the gentleman I spoke to had received 10 telephone calls that day reporting missing papers; and that there was no way for me to obtain new ballot papers without travelling to the office in Bridgnorth.
I have always voted by post, having been a student since I was eligible to vote and therefore usually away from my permanent residence at election times. I have never experienced any problems before this year. Though following all directions available to me, I have been prevented from voting.
Sir: My daughter is away in her first year at university, and applied for a postal vote in her home constituency some time ago. Shortly after she returned for the new term, polling cards appeared for all the students in her hall of residence, giving them a vote in the constituency containing the university. Presumably a university official had registered them all on their behalf.
Everyone has acted in good faith, and my daughter only voted once, but it will have been very tempting to do otherwise. Has this been repeated in other colleges and universities?
Nuclear deterrence in a changed world
Sir: The writer of your editorial "Hypocrisy and the nuclear deterrent" (2 May) might have remembered that when the Labour Party elected the unilateral nuclear disarmer Michael Foot for its leader in the 1980s, not only did they remain in opposition for the next decade and a bit, but the party split, and the multilateralist Social Democrat Party was set up. (I was its Chief Whip in the House of Lords.)
That today's United States government and its predecessors have long been "hypocritical" in this field is shown by their silent but steadfast approval of Israeli nuclear weapons, while loudly claiming to promote non-proliferation. The presence of one accepted nuclear weapons state in the Middle East led to Iraq's nuclear weapons programme, and of course to Iran's (if it has one). Hitherto, indeed, all nuclear weapon programmes in the world have been in response to other parties' known or suspected nuclear weapons programmes: "deterrence" is the purpose. Would we have attacked Iraq if we had really believed it was nuclear-armed?
Today, US development of new nuclear weapons and of space-based military technologies shows how the overall context has changed since we scientifically advanced states last thought comprehensively about arms control. How we can deal with a resurgence of active interest in nuclear technologies, both civil and military, is once again urgent.
Lifestyle can change to save the planet
Sir: I am amazed by the statement from the Prime Minister that there is no political will to force lifestyle changes in relation to climate change.
Does he not remember previous governments that encouraged us to wear seat belts and give up smoking and drink driving and warned us about Aids? More recently, local authorities up and down the country have forced us to recycle our domestic waste by changing the way they collect our rubbish.
People do change their lifestyles, but it takes leadership. Perhaps the Prime Minister is saying that he is no longer capable of leading the country.
ST IVES, CAMBRIDGESHIRE
Sir: You report that in order to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, Mr Blair favours the nuclear option rather than forcing people to change their lifestyle.
While working as an environmental scientist, I was twice exposed in this country to elevated levels of radioactivity, including fallout from the Chernobyl cloud in 1986. In 1999, I was diagnosed as having leukaemia, and have often wondered whether there was a connection.
Fortunately and thankfully, modern medicine as kept me alive - but at a cost, both to the NHS and to me. I no longer feel able to travel long distances and have not been abroad since. Hopefully a return to a greater dependency on nuclear power will not ultimately lead to the enforced lifestyle change for many people that Mr Blair is currently anxious to avoid.
DR ARNOLD COOKE
Now give school sports a boost
Sir: Child obesity is on the political menu, Jamie Oliver has wheeled in the first course and the Education Minister has set healthy school dinners as her priority target. All this is good news, but drowning among the pious cries for fruit and veg and the outlawing of chips is the seemingly forgotten notion of exercise.
Why, for example, is the Government not focusing on school sports alongside healthy school dinners? Now is the time for a dazzling sports star to do a "Jamie", ask them to give back our playing fields, reward and encourage teachers to coach after school, and promote sport as a legitimate school activity instead of one which gets in the way of maths classes.
School league tables are not going to go away, so why not have them for sports achievements as well as exam results? Apart from making our children fitter, enhanced sports programmes will encourage those who are not academically inclined.
Species of fiction
Sir: I notice that in the Arts & Books Review (6 May) you list John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men as non-fiction. So I suppose it is now classified as biology?
Sir: Guy Keleny hardly needs me to fly to his defence, but Tim Lynch (letter, 7 May) confuses completing and finishing. An Airbus that crash-lands on the péripherique might be said to have finished its flight, but completed it? I think not.
New Tory leader
Sir: At the turn of the millennium, while editing a local newspaper in Dorking, Surrey, I interviewed William Hague, who was visiting the district while campaigning for the European elections. I came away with an impression of a very switched-on politician but one doomed to failure, having come too early to leadership and surrounded by those who could not yet accept that fundamental changes were needed within the party. The Conservative Party would do well to reflect on the talent that was wasted in that post-1997 period, and to then persuade Hague that he should return to leadership.
Expert on abortion
Sir: What excellent news it is that the Pope is taking a hard line on abortion. As a 78-year-old celibate man, he obviously knows all about it and the anguish it entails and is well qualified to instruct the faithful on how not to behave.
Terror at the polls
Sir: According to Martin Phillips (letter, 5 May), the voters of Guildford were "terrified of Michael Howard becoming Prime Minister". I look forward to seeing Mr Phillips' explanation of why the Guildford electorate, cowering in fear, returned a Conservative as their MP.
WALTON ON THAMES, SURREYReuse content