The Monarchy, arms trade and others

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A monarchy without magic dooms Princes to a cruel fate

A monarchy without magic dooms Princes to a cruel fate

Sir: Any rules of undemocratic succession are inappropriate in a modern democracy ("Charles should shut up or step aside", 9 June). What makes Janet Street-Porter, or anyone else, believe William will be better than Charles? He is a product of the same family, the same upbringing, and rather than having an unalloyed dedication to "duty" as some say the Queen possesses, William often seems like just another rich boy, pursuing his own interests as much as his father does.

Not that this is really the fault of William or Charles. The problem is that the whole system is based on a misplaced deference and a lost sense of myth and awe. The royals cannot hope to meet the demands of the job imposed upon them by a fawning public and hypocritical press. The magic has gone and cannot be rediscovered.

The system of succession for the role of head of state in this country is based on genetic lottery. It is a system that is unfair to the people of Britain and downright cruel to the poor sap waiting in line to the throne.

GRAHAM SMITH

CAMPAIGN COORDINATOR, REPUBLIC, BRIGHTON

Sir: Janet Street-Porter is breathtaking in her impertinence, and the title of her TV documentary ("Janet Saves the Monarchy") is laughable in its absurd egotism.

Ms Street-Porter climbs on the fashionable band-wagon of attacking a man who cannot answer back but who, whatever his flaws (and which of us has none?) has tried to fulfil a duty made almost unbearable by the unforgiving daily scrutiny of the media.

Prince Charles has sought to draw attention to causes he considers important and which Ms Street-Porter considers old-fashioned. She would have him be a charming, unthinking air-head nonentity. She would prefer his elder son to be next in line for the throne, little realising that his celebrity status would be eclipsed within a short space by the bitch-goddess of fashion or his first mistake. I find no support for this fashionable line outside the chattering classes around London.

JOHN BILLINGTON

LLANDYSSIL, POWYS

Sir: It is ironic that in the same issue as Steve McCormack's excellent article on the importance of grammar, and the need to ensure that teachers themselves have a thorough grasp of the subject (Education, 9 June), Janet Street-Porter should complain about Prince Charles's comments on schoolchildren being asked "to discuss texting and it's impact on the language". I hope the English lessons that Janet taught during her own recent spell in the classroom did not include use of the apostrophe.

CLARE STEVENS

LONDON SE22

Arms trade blights lives of world's poor

Sir: G8 hypocrisy over military spending goes still deeper than suggested in your front-page article on 9 June. Not only do G8 countries' defence budgets dwarf their aid budgets, but their arms exports actively undermine the good done by their aid.

Countries at war find it much harder to escape from poverty. G8 leaders are rightly congratulated for building new schools and hospitals in developing countries, but, at the moment, they are also supplying a hail of bullets that stops people accessing them.

The moral responsibility of the G8 is clear. For the third year in a row, the value of the global arms trade has increased - and the G8's share of that trade rose last year to a staggering 87 per cent. The G8 can stop their arms falling into the hands of human rights abusers and from reaching countries devastated by conflict.

On 23 June, the G8 foreign ministers meet in London. Up for discussion is an international arms trade treaty, which if adopted, would stop arms from blighting the lives of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people. If the G8 mean what they say on poverty, they must also publicly support an arms trade treaty.

BARBARA STOCKING

DIRECTOR, OXFAM KATE ALLEN DIRECTOR, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL UK REBECCA PETERS DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL ACTION NETWORK ON SMALL ARMS LONDON EC2

Sir: The answer to the question why the rich nations of the world spend a trillion dollars on arms is surely to protect themselves from the poor.

GORDON WHITEHEAD

RIPON, NORTH YORKSHIRE

Sir: It is a disgrace that only one African act has been invited to perform at Live8, while all other spots are offered to European or American artists.

When Youssou N'Dour played in Gambia recently over two thirds of the population of that country went to see him. Which of the geriatric rockers playing at Live8 can match that? There is, however, a significant gesture that the bands which have been invited to play could make for Africa: they could give up their slot for an African band. That would be a real sacrifice, and would show that they really cared.

It would also help highlight the vibrancy of the current African live music scene, and hopefully encourage tourism and economic investment, two things Africa badly needs.

HENRY LAWRENCE

DYRHAM, SOUTH GLOUCESTERSHIRE

Sir: We are a Scottish registered charity and we have been working in Africa for over 20 years and we are slightly amused at Bob Geldof's cry to rally the troops in Edinburgh.

He wants one million people to commit and come. Well, we have been trying for a year to find 12 people who are willing to commit for one year to help vulnerable children in Africa. So why will those people come to his concerts but not commit to actually doing something useful for these children?

BILL MCDONALD-WOOD

AFRICAN CHILD EDUCATION PROGRAMME MUSSELBURGH, EAST LOTHIAN

Sir: How exciting! I have already received an e-mail from a corporate events firm (I have no clue as to how it got my address) offering me a package for the Live8 concert in Hyde Park. For a mere £999 plus VAT I can forget about world poverty for the day by indulging myself with a champagne breakfast, pre-show hospitality at a top London hotel, priority access to the concert, floral displays, TV screens and finally an exclusive commemorative gift. And I can, if I wish, have a backstage pass included for just another £250.

RICHARD MILLETT

LONDON NW7

When police face murder charges

Sir: You are in error when you comment ("Officers arrested over Stanley shooting", 3 June) that "a police officer has never been charged before with committing a murder while on duty". PC Patrick Hodgson was tried for murder for the first time in December 1996, and was finally acquitted at his second retrial in October 1997.

There are two particular difficulties in such cases. First, English law on self-defence is as vague and unhelpful in relation to policemen and soldiers as it is for ordinary citizens; and secondly in most cases of this nature, the verdict should be murder (if self-defence fails) or an outright acquittal (if it succeeds). But many would prefer there to be a (legally plausible) verdict between these extremes.

The combination of these difficulties makes it particularly hard to guess how a jury will react. It is certainly possible that a jury in a criminal court which is in effect asked to sanction a sentence of life imprisonment on the police officers will react differently from an inquest jury, whose verdict of unlawful killing has no such immediate consequences, even if both juries take a similar view as to what actually happened.

DR JONATHAN ROGERS

LECTURER IN LAW UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON

Aids cases that cause no panic

Sir: David McNeill's report on the growing HIV epidemic in Japan ("Easy sex and slow politics tip Japan towards Aids crisis", 9 June) exemplifies discriminatory perspectives on disease and death among marginalised groups. He describes how HIV in the UK has been confined to well-defined categories, but "worryingly" the profile of the victims in Japan is "heterosexual and drug free".

Epidemiological data show that the UK HIV burden is largely borne by intravenous drug users, gay men and sub-Saharan Africans. But McNeill implies that this is of less concern than non-African, non-drug using heterosexuals contracting HIV. In developed countries, HIV/Aids is largely a disease that affects marginalised and socially excluded groups, and the largest media and health service panics erupt when a threat to the "mainstream" is postulated.

The best public health for all members of society should be our shared concern, but we continue to see worst outcomes (morbidity, mortality) among marginalised populations and lower socioeconomic groups. It is hardly surprising that we see an association between devaluing of these communities and worse health outcomes.

DR RICHARD HARDING

LECTURER DEPARTMENT OF PALLIATIVE CARE & POLICY GUY'S KING'S & ST THOMAS' SCHOOL OF MEDICINE KINGS COLLEGE LONDON

Self-interest argues for voting reform

Sir: I am pleased to tell Philip Green (Letters, 9 June) that I have been a supporter of electoral reform since the late 1980s.

In warning Labour that it may be defeated at the next election unless it espouses electoral reform, I was appealing to the natural self-interest of any party in power. We have to face the fact that it will be very difficult for any party elected to government under one system to change it willingly for another. The arguments commonly used for electoral reform, such as fairness and justice (with which I wholeheartedly agree), will be greeted with scepticism by the politicians who have the power to change the system, whatever party they happen to be.

So let us try persuading governments that electoral reform is in their self-interest in the longer term, as well as being right and just and democratic.

ANNE CAMPBELL

CAMBRIDGE

Easter Island lesson for a green future

Sir: Johann Hari (8 June) exaggerates when he describes what happened on Easter Island as "environmental suicide". They had stopped fighting and eating each other a couple of generations before the Dutch ship arrived in 1722, and the population had stabilised at around 3,000 (from a peak estimated at over 12,000).

But even so his account of Professor Diamond's work does not quite get to the bottom of the stupendous difficulties to be overcome if globally we are to avoid an analogous fate. The root cause is a reliance on growth, and the resulting dominance of competition in the culture, which escalates to aggression rather than rational co-operation. Whichever world leader, airline or whatever holds out against sanity till the last is the winner.

But even at a more superficial level we have a serious problem. If we lived closer together I would offer to take Johann Hari doorstepping during an election campaign. I would let him explain that we should "introduce legislation to make all air travel carbon neutral", pointing out not only that "this would roughly double the cost", but also that "it will take dozens of tough decisions like this [to] fend off disaster".

I would then speak with the less than one in four who had not yet slammed their doors to point out that the reaction of the others explained why only the Green Party, not yet harbouring ambitions of immediate power, dare spell out such details. A healthy Green vote, I explain, will not bring about these measures, but it will get Green speakers cross-examined by Jeremy Paxman. A reassuringly high proportion of the one in five still listening respond positively to this. There is hope yet - I think.

CLIVE LORD

BATLEY, WEST YORKSHIRE

New St Paul's

Sir: Splendid as the restored St Paul's Cathedral and your photograph of it (10 June) is, it is not "as it was meant to be seen". The organ case originally blocked the view from where your photograph was taken, the ceiling mosaics are late 19th century (personally, I prefer the white spaces elsewhere in the cathedral's ceilings) and the baldacchino is post-war, although Wren apparently sketched an idea for one.

REV PETER KETTLE

LONDON SW19

Multiple currencies

Sir: Hamish McRae (Opinion, 8 June) says that in 10 to 12 years "the idea of a single currency will become indefensible" because of the need to set different interest rates in different countries. But why stop at countries? Won't north and south England, quite apart from other parts of the UK, need different rates, as also north and south Italy and Spain, just by way of example? So should we have umpteen different currencies around Europe? I certainly hope not for the sake of ease of international travel and international trading and price comparisons.

H TREVOR JONES

GUILDFORD, SURREY

Sir: Are those who cling to national independence and resist closer integration within Europe prepared for America's continuing ability to control world events to her own economic advantage without let or hindrance?

EILEEN NOAKES

TOTNES, DEVON

A fair law on hatred

Sir: You criticise the proposed law against incitement to religious hatred (leading article, 10 June). The current imbalance in the law has to be dealt with. The law recognises Jews and Sikhs as racial groups and offers them protection under the law from incitement to racial hatred. In reality both Jews and Sikhs are defined by their religion and not their skin colour. Similarly, Christianity is protected under blasphemy laws. Why is protection offered to some religious groups and not others?

JAWID IQBAL

BIRMINGHAM

Hacker as an asset

Sir: If the American military have an ounce of common sense, they'll be looking to extradite Gary McKinnon, who hacked into the Pentagon, in order to employ, not imprison, him. Much as the Americans raced, and beat, the Russians to the German nuclear and rocket scientific pool of talent in 1945, they need to see this modern day "foe" as a easy opportunity to recruit the best talent in the world.

JONATHAN HORSLEY

MARCHINGTON, STAFFORDSHIRE

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