Wrath in the gods as theatres turn drama into a farce
Wrath in the gods as theatres turn drama into a farce
Sir: David Lister's theatrical grouse ("Listen to the audience", 10 February) omits the raw deal offered in the West End to OAPs - which is less a concession than a condescension. An hour before the performance, one may, if lucky, get a good seat at a discount, but this does mean that one cannot go to the theatre with a younger companion who cannot afford top prices.
The alternative is to book for the balcony, and drag one's rheumatism way, way, way up miles of steep stairs to cram into a midget's legroom and enjoy an excellent view of the lighting apparatus.
The Old Vic offers no concessions to those of us who, 50 years ago, when young and supple, endured its balcony benches in the golden age of Olivier, Thorndike, Evans and Richardson, but it does beneficently offer special rates for the under-25s.
One opens one's expensive programme. It has pages of advertisements which must more than cover its cost, and vaguely relevant aphorisms and quotes, but no explanation by the producer for his/her unorthodox angle on the play. Even if there was, one would not be able to read it in the semi-dark auditorium because it will be printed in white on black, or grey-green on green-grey graphics. Like the handwriting of Christopher Fry's Countess, theatre programmes these days withhold rather than impart information.
Rush to deport desperate people
Sir: Thank you for the very moving front-page story (8 February) on the "human anguish behind the immigration debate". The political auction centres on economic immigration, but the desperate plight of asylum seekers must not be conflated with that, as your correspondents point out.
Here in Oxford, with Campsfield House Removal Centre on our doorstep, we are well aware of the gradual erosion of any humane response to the refugees who need the sanctuary Britain once provided. To them it seems like death by a thousand cuts. The European Convention on Human Rights, their last hope of fair treatment, is already under attack from New Labour, while the Conservatives want to duck out of it altogether.
Once again the Home Secretary raises the spectre of "abuse" by asylum seekers. I have been visiting detainees for over 10 years and have only come across two or three at most whose case was not genuine. But I know of many genuine refugees who were disbelieved and deported to further persecution. Others have committed suicide rather than be sent "home". The fact that refugees from Zimbabwe are now being sent back to the "safety" of Mugabe's oppressive regime is scandalous.
The fast-track system is now to be extended, denying appellants the chance to obtain the documents they need from home to support their case. The drastic cuts in legal aid mean that most destitute detainees have no chance to find a lawyer. Not content with the rush to deport desperate people, the plan now is to detain even more - including children - and finally to remove the security of refugee status, leaving refugees in a further limbo for five years. When can we expect politicians to observe our moral obligations to asylum seekers and ignore the distorted propaganda of the tabloids?
Sir: Joanna Vallely's emotional response to the plight of west African refugees struggling to reach Europe (letter, 10 February), is understandable; but blaming Britain for propping up dictators and ruining African economies is a distortion.
In 2007 Ghana will celebrate 50 years of "freedom and justice". Independence followed for Nigeria in 1960 and Sierra Leone in 1961. All had leaders who had come to power through democratic elections organised by the departing British colonialists. Peace reigned and in Sierra Leone there was only one political prisoner at independence and he was given a bottle of whisky to celebrate. All the west African states had viable economies
Within a few years the Nigerian premier had been slaughtered by his troops and a rash of coups spread to all four former colonies. Economies nosedived as spending on the infrastructure was strangled by corruption and the jails filled with those political prisoners who hadn't fled into exile.
A misinformed sense of guilt should not be used as the basis of an immigration policy but rather we should adopt the rules which the African countries have used to good effect themselves to prevent recolonisation. All who seek to enter must have a job to go to which a local cannot fill and arrive with a return ticket provided by their prospective employer. The direct attempts to slow the wave of immigrants must indeed be matched by action on debt relief and fairer access to our markets .
Sir: I congratulate The Independent on its willingness to ignore the tidal wave of opinion against refugees and instead highlight the lives of those who are forced to leave their countries. The present culture of hostility towards refugees should be extremely disturbing for a nation that fought against Nazism.
Long before the Holocaust, the Nazis created a culture where it was acceptable to scapegoat Jews, saying that they were taking jobs and benefits, were causing health problems and were responsible for crime. Yet similar accusations are being made now by both media and politicians, with no thoughts for the long-term consequences.
Sir: The editor of Shooting Times claims that dumping shot pheasants instead of eating them is a "line peddled by animal rights activists" (Letters, 9 February).
The shocking truth - that many of these intensively reared birds are shot primarily for sport and buried instead of eaten - actually originates from shooting insiders. On several occasions, pro-shooting magazines have reported that pheasants are buried in pits. If any more evidence is required, photographs of numerous birds who have been dumped by the roadside have appeared in the East Anglian Daily Times.
The shooting fraternity is in denial over the state of their industry because they fear that, after hunting, shooting will be next.
Sir: One hears stories about superfluous pheasants being buried after shoots too often in too many places to doubt them. Sometimes, they are not even buried.
A couple of years ago, we found three plastic bags full of pheasant bodies dumped along local roads some days after a shoot. We informed the police and they disappeared but nothing further was heard about it.
W R P BOURNE
Solidarity with Iraq
Sir: Alice Mahon (letter, 31 January) says that Labour Friends of Iraq (LFIQ) would be more convincing if we had commented on the bombing of Fallujah and abuse of prisoners.
A quick glance at our website shows that we carry a regular feature called "Bush doesn't get it", where we propose an absolute ban on torture. We also issued a model motion on Fallujah before the attack, which condemned its aerial bombardment, demanded political and humanitarian means to prevent civilian casualties and added that a flourishing democracy in Iraq would powerfully undermine terrorism. It is preposterous to say that LFIQ is an apologist for the war: most of us opposed it, but post-war solidarity is the priority.
More importantly, Iraqis have moved on by giving the purple finger to the fascist gunmen and bombers and voting in huge numbers. So let all those who took different positions on the war unite to provide huge moral and material solidarity to Iraqi unions and civil society.
Director, Labour Friends of Iraq
Sir: Of course they should marry, and in due course Camilla should be made Queen. It is ridiculous if the Royal Family pander to the whim of those who hold Diana up as some kind of role model.
She may have been only 19 when she married but her family must have advised her very clearly what she was getting into; she did not marry for true love, she married Charles for a clear purpose. Diana was pretty (which seems to be more important than anything else in modern society) so the public took her into their hearts, but she was a vacuous air-head with eating disorders, not something we should aspire to.
The Royal Family should be strong enough to make unpopular decisions. If William and Harry can accept Camilla then so will the rest of us. Who wants a Royal Family commanded by the tabloid press?
Sir: I do not think Charles should be allowed to marry a divorcee, especially because he was having an affair with this woman while married to Diana. All I can hear are Diana's words: "There were three of us in our marriage."
If Charles and Camilla want to get married then he should give up his right to the throne, the same as his great uncle did when he married Wallis Simpson. Anyway, I think Prince William would make a much better king.
Sir: I'm pleased that at last they can formalise what appears to be a lovely relationship. Whatever may have gone before, they, like we, only have the one life; they should make the most of it.
Sir: Well done on your front page today (11 February). The only newspaper to get things in perspective, as usual.
Worthing, West Sussex
Sir: Thank goodness one newspaper has a grasp of the concept of newsworthiness. The British media has descended, once more, into the usual sycophantic froth about the dysfunctional family of our archaic head of state. A scan of almost all Friday's newspapers revealed no more than a mass of downmarket celebrity gossip.
Strange when you consider we are in the run-up to a crucial general election and also witnessing the first real steps towards tackling global poverty. What a thoroughly modern democratic state the UK must seem to the outside world.
GARETH JOHN MORGAN
Sir: The only Duchess of Cornwall I'd ever heard of before today was Regan in King Lear.
Master of spin
Sir: Surely the presence of Alastair Campbell on the Labour election team will convince many Labour voters to stay at home, or vote for another party. Plenty who used to consider themselves "core" Labour voters do not want to be associated with the spin, the illogical arguments and the bullying, that have characterised the last few years of a Labour government, particularly about Iraq. Alastair Campbell epitomises these traits. His presence on the election team shows that they are not going to go away.
Dare to be popular
Sir: In her review of Quirk (9 February) Annette Morreau has drawn our attention to the last thing a living serious composer should do; write a work of which it can be said, "The crowd loved it". Most of us will be happy if Karl Jenkins continues to produce such vulgar music.
G D MORRIS
No training needed
Sir: "Soldier 'not trained to deal with civilians' "(10 February). So the Army does not train combatants how to deal with civilians. What happened to common humanity, decency and common sense?
Speed limit shattered
Sir: "The 2005 RAC Report on Motoring found that 57 per cent of drivers break the motorway speed limit" (In Brief, 7 February). When I drive on the motorway, at 70mph, mine is usually the only car on the inside lane while everyone else zooms past. I would have estimated the number of drivers breaking the motorway speed limit to be nearer to 97 per cent than 57 per cent - or has the speed limit been increased and no one has bothered to tell me?
Sir: I can see what David Llewellyn is getting at when he writes (11 February) that the French have promoted the Scots scrum-half Chris Cusiter, "le petit général", above their own Jacques Fouroux, "le petit caporal". However, since "le petit caporal" is the nickname by which the French fondly refer to Napoleon himself, the promotion is not quite as significant as he suggests.
C D ROLFE