Letters: Hilary Benn steps into a historic role

Independent Voices@IndyVoices
Thursday 03 December 2015 18:59
Hilary Benn closes the Syria debate for Labour
Hilary Benn closes the Syria debate for Labour

Hilary Benn's moment has arrived

Hilary Benn is this age’s Churchill. His eloquence rivals Winston’s. He is as bright as his late dad, Tony Benn.

In the Syria debate, Benn Junior demonstrated his fitness to lead this country, and seemed to seize the opportunity to show how much more capable he is than Jeremy Corbyn and David Cameron. He unified all parties in admiration, and his speech was listened to in silence, unlike everyone else’s.

And he should have made everybody realise that we face an evil that compares with that of the Nazis.

Paul Dunwell


One thing the vote on air attacks on Syria clarified is that the extremist right wing of the Labour Party now has an immense problem of racism and white privilege. Nowhere was this more evident than in the prominence of Hilary Benn.

Despite Labour historically being the party of decolonisation, the Westminster-bubble, elitist Benn now freely articulates an ideology little heard in the postwar history of the party. We are now told that it is appropriate for white westerners to intrude, bomb and kill indigenous people in their own homelands on the other side of the world, and to determine what sort of government and society should grow there.

Dr Gavin Lewis


What an opportunist Hilary Benn is! How absurd to describe Isis as “fascist”. As George Orwell wrote in 1944: “The word ‘fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless ... almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘fascist’.”

Stewart Trotter

London W9

Hillary for 2016!

Hilary for 2020!

Alan Pavelin

Chislehurst, Kent

Now for the Syrian Armageddon

David Cameron’s only game plan for Syria is Armageddon. Tragically, both that narrative and his own are works of fiction.

Cameron’s hypothetical “moderates” numbering a hypothetical 70,000 are a miscellany of militias with shifting allegiances defined by a changing enemy. In the absence of international threats, they scrap among themselves.

Cameron has no more hope of controlling “moderate” warlords, and the outcome in Syria, than he has of managing Vladimir Putin or Bashar al-Assad.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Syria. How is it possible that Cameron has learnt so little from so much?

Jan Tate

Hayling Island, Hampshire

I have a son in our rapid response units and much to lose now that we have gone over to the offensive against Isis in Syria, but I take comfort in the words of John Stuart Mill:

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of morals and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight and nothing that he cares more about than his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

Rev Dr John Cameron

St Andrews, Fife

No one has raised the challenge of what happens when one of your pilots is shot down.

If Isis then carries out the same sort of execution as it did with the Jordanian pilot a few months back, then I hope David Cameron will accept responsibility for the Muslim deaths that will happen on UK streets with a grim inevitability.

John Evans

Pulborough, West Sussex

For four years (1941-45) British and American air forces dropped thousands of tons of high-explosive and incendiary bombs on the French port of Lorient in Brittany, which had become Hitler’s favourite U-boat fortress.

The Allied bombers failed to destroy any of the German U-boats, which continued to sink hundreds of Allied ships in the Atlantic. Nor did they destroy the concrete pens (still intact today) where the U-boats were based, or any of the concrete fortifications built by the slave labour employed by the Germans to protect the submarine base. The Allies did succeed, however, in killing thousands of Lorient’s inhabitants, and in destroying 90 per cent of its buildings.

I write as a native of that unfortunate town, who had the luck to have left it before the bombing started.

Alan Pedley

Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire

Jeremy Corbyn advocates diplomacy instead of bombs. Very well, then, let him go out and talk peaceably and reasonably to Isis. It won’t cost the taxpayer much. He won’t need a return ticket.

Peter Forster

London N4

One party, two leaders

I agree with many of the positions taken by Jeremy Corbyn, but cannot ignore what seems to be a fundamental problem. I have not forgotten what I was taught decades ago about the British system of responsible government: the distinctive feature is that cabinets are appointed from those who command a majority in the Commons.

It follows that potential prime ministers need to command a majority of their parliamentary supporters. Labour’s new way of electing its leader ignored that constitutional convention. One solution for Labour is to modify the selection process for its leader. Another is Frank Field’s idea (letter, 3 December) of having a parliamentary as well as a party leader.

Peter Robb

London N1

Why on earth would or should Jeremy Corbyn agree to Frank Field’s unsubtle proposal to remove him from leadership of the Parliamentary Labour Party while remaining leader of the party?

Apart from the fact that this would be a recipe for even deeper division it should be remembered that not only was Corbyn elected leader but the majority of Labour MPs supported his stance on Syria, not to mention tax credits and cuts to the police. Some humility and self-discipline are in order.

David Parker

Meltham, West Yorkshire

Two leaders: a preposterous suggestion by Frank Field. So we will have Labour Party members versus Labour Members of Parliament. Has he never heard of the worldly-wise expression “a house divided against itself cannot stand”?

David Ashton

Shipbourne, Kent

Philanthropy and tax avoidance

While the Zuckerbergs’ philanthropy should be applauded, one immediate way that some of the vast wealth generated by Facebook could be dedicated to education and health causes would be if Facebook paid more than £4,327 corporation tax in this country each year.

Philanthropy should not be about the very rich gaining plaudits for endowing their own pet causes with cash, much of which has been inadequately taxed. There should be a mixture of individuals’ generously donating already taxed resources to their chosen causes and governments being able to apply proper tax receipts to education, health, overseas aid etc. in line with their democratic mandate.

Mike Bignell

Sherborne, Dorset

Tory bullying right at the top

Following the suicide of Elliot Johnson, we have been reading accusations of endemic bullying within the Conservative Party hierarchy. David Cameron has now resorted to calling those who disagree with his bombing of Syria “terrorist sympathisers”; he has repeatedly failed to apologise for this when asked to do so in the House of Commons. It seems that bullying behaviour and name-calling starts right at the top.

Dr Audrey Boucher

Oakley, Hampshire

Excessive wages no problem for bosses

Conservatives and employers always tell ordinary workers that if they demand “excessive” wage increases, they will simply price themselves out of work; so why do top bankers and CEOs never seem to render themselves unemployed with their seven-figure salaries (“Gap between average wages and those of top executives ‘widening each year’ ”, 30 November)?

Pete Dorey


Climate of change in the garden

Today I mowed my lawn. In all the many years that I have kept my various gardens tidy, I have never before had to mow a lawn in December. So perhaps those who remain sceptical about climate change could consider this small piece of evidence.

Adrian Canale-Parola

Rugby, Warwickshire

End of the shameful courts charge

Well done Emily Dugan and the other Independent journalists who have campaigned for the abolition of the criminal courts charge. Michael Gove has done the right thing and Chris Grayling should hang his head in shame.

Anthony Young JP

Chidham, West Sussex

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