Swearing another form of bullying

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I am surprised by both Howard Jacobson (21 December) and Andrew Mitchell in their carefree use of swear words when speaking to officials. Both men are capable of great eloquence and should never need to resort to the vulgar use of swear words.

Officials are in no position to respond in the way they might feel without risk of losing their jobs. They are easy targets for this form of bullying and have a right to a degree of protection. This explains the obvious anger of some police officers.

It all comes down to what is reasonable and those who are less eloquent tend to become angry more quickly and therefore more likely to swear. These two gentlemen have little excuse.

In the case of Mr Mitchell, we will find out more but we will never know the full detail. Thus the words of many judges "You brought this upon yourself" may or may not be applicable.

Colin Harding

Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire

This "Plebgate" affair should hopefully wake people up to two urgent reforms that the Coalition has ducked.

First, Section 5 of the Public Order Act allows people to be arrested, even prosecuted on the "evidence" of people claiming to be victims of "threatening, abusive or insulting" words. This has got be to scrapped.

Second, police logs or other information on individuals may not be accurate. The police can still pass on damaging information or misinformation about innocent people in CRB checks. Yes, they've set up a review on Section 5 and looking into police, as opposed to criminal records, but nothing has been done.

John Boylan

Hatfield, Hertfordshire

My neighbour, an intelligent man although he hasn't had the benefit of a privileged education, didn't know what a "pleb" was until I told him. "So what?" he said. "It's using the F-word that I object to."

The odd thing is that Mitchell readily owned up to that, and he and his pals seem to think it's not a matter for concern, whereas "pleb" seems to matter awfully. Tells you something about their sensibilities, doesn't it? I wonder how they rate two other four-letter words: Tory and toff?

David Penn

Kendal, Cumbria

In the "Plebgate" case, you tell us that Mr Cameron decided not to raise apparent inconsistencies in evidence with the Metropolitan Police, "fearing that it would poison relations with the élite group of policemen who guard senior politicians".

Such behaviour can only encourage the police in the belief that normal rules do not apply to them, and make the public despair at the weakness of government.

Gyles Cooper

London N10

Andrew Mitchell admits swearing at police officers; anybody else would have received a fixed penalty notice. Now he claims to be the victim of a conspiracy, forgetting that his own colleagues called for his resignation.

Maybe it is time he resigned as an MP and took another career path.

Duncan Anderson

East Halton, North Lincolnshire

Worst fears of the disabled are confirmed

With the slashing of local authority funding revealed by the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles ("City leaders warn of crisis over cuts to funding", 20 December), disabled people already suffering under the impact of cutbacks and benefit changes will face further losses of essential support.

The budget settlement followed in the wake of the announcement of the Government's decision to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF), a vital source of support to disabled people with higher support needs that enable us to live in the community. Instead, responsibility will be devolved to local authorities.

Responses from local authorities to the consultation on the future of the Fund show they do not have the capacity to replace the level of support provided by the ILF and confirmed the worst fears of disabled people in warning that for some individuals there may be no option other than for them to go into residential care. The further restriction of council spending will make this more likely.

Government plans will lead to a society where those with the highest levels of support/need are denied basic freedoms and shut away in institutions at risk of abuses such as those witnessed in cases like Winterbourne View, in contempt for disabled people's right to to live in the community in a home of our own and with choice and control over our lives.

Linda Burnip

Disabled People Against Cuts

Tracey Lazard

Inclusion London

Kevin Caulfield

Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition Against Community Care Cuts

Debbie Jolly

Disabled People Against Cuts.

And 22 others

London N1

Abolition of standing charge

The Consumers Association is right to call for the abolition of standing charges from fuel tariffs. It has been wrongly suggested that if this were to happen the necessary increase in the standard charges per Kwh would cause those in fuel poverty to suffer unduly. Clearly, they would gain.

An average gas supplier charges about £104 a year standing charge and 3.25p per Kwh. A large user using, say, 24,000 Kwh pa would therefore pay (£104 + 24,000x 3.25p) £884. An average of 3.68p per Kwh. Someone in fuel poverty might use say 8,000 Kwh p.a costing (£104 +8,000x3.25p) £364. An average of 4.55p per Kwh

If the fuel supplier were to recover the same income from these two users without using a standing charge then he would need to increase his standard rate to 3.9p per Kwh. The large user would suffer an increase of 6 per cent, the small user would have a reduction of 14 per cent. Surely something we would all applaud.

Clive Georgeson

Dronfield, Derbyshire

Danger of our blocked drains

Now we have got the End of the World out of the way (what a lack-lustre event that was) it is time to address the more important issue of road drainage.

For years, councils and other authorities have neglected road gullies, drains and ditches. Every year, leaf-fall and winter gritting means more material being swept into drains. Many are choked and the water has nowhere to go.

Keeping the drains clear should be a routine annual task. It would not stop rivers overflowing, but would prevent flash floods where the water on roads has nowhere to go and pours into properties.

Colin Hayward

Fareham, Hampshire

'Marriage' that puzzles priest

With trepidation, a Catholic priest dares to tread what is becoming the minefield of the single-sex marriage debate (26 December). My impression is that many Catholics would agree with me that the civil union rightly gives security, respect and dignity to a couple of the same sex who choose to live together in a loving relationship.

But I do not see what is added by calling this union a "marriage". That it is referred to as "single-sex marriage" or "gay marriage" recognises that it is not the same as marriage as we have always known it. The difference is expressed in a word not often used in the arguments. The word is "children".

What word will we have to use to describe marriage between man and woman? Or will our government, as they engage in their exercise of lexicography, coin a new word? How about "matrimony"?

I hope I am not a bigot nor a homophobe nor an ignorant celibate. I am genuinely puzzled.

Rev Bernard O'Connor OSA

Birmingham

There are some of us who believe that it is the Creator who determines what is the right use of human sexuality. The church could be wrong, of course, on Jesus being the incarnate Son of God, but for those who do believe it is logical to see his words that God intended marriage to be monogamous, permanent, and "male and female" over public opinion.

Dr Paul Marston

Preston, Lancashire

Guns are for cowards

If I make the assumption that Rod Raso and Norm Stewart (letters, 17, 18 December) own guns, I'd like to ask them why? What are you so frightened of? If you're so scared of living in your own country that you need assault weapons in your house then come over here.

We don't do guns and we've got a fantastic National Health Service too, free to all at the point of use, and paid for from my taxes. It's brilliant. People who hunt here or shoot competitively do guns. No one owns a gun for self-defence. And a gun is not self-defence, is it? It's an offensive weapon. It is a thing for cowards.

Bin your guns, get up close, spread your arms and start talking to your fellow human beings rather than being frightened of them.

Dave Johnstone

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Actually, the "right to bear arms" is a consequence of two imperatives in American cultural history. One is the notion of ongoing revolution, that citizens should have the resources to bring down an unjust government just as they'd done to the British.

The second is racism. Gun ownership reinforced practices of slave ownership and after that lynching. It's significant that when, in response to a prolonged period of lethal police violence against African-Americans, the Oakland Black Panthers availed themselves of a law that allowed individuals to carry shotguns in public, local California law was soon amended to prevent this.

Gavin Lewis

Manchester

Twenty children and five women died tragically at Sandy Hook. Two others died that day, the owner of the guns, and her son. If the owner hadn't owned her guns, she would still be alive. And the NRA thinks that owning guns saves lives.

Venetia Caine

Glastonbury, Somerset

It was vandalism

Those who complain about the sentence handed to Wlodzimierz Umaniec (letters, 24 December) either do not see, or chose not to see, that he vandalised a great work of art.

Here, in the Land of Despair, peopled by Osbornes, Cowells, Saviles and the rest, a place welling with misery and foul weather, art offers about the only hope that humanity may have one or two redeemable characteristics.

If we seek to retain the mantle of civilisation, his act of uncreative brutality deserves effective punishment.

Michael Rosenthal

Banbury, Oxfordshire

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