This weekend, most of the thoughtful press in this country, including The Independent, carried editorials blaming the results of the recent by-elections on Mr Corbyn or on the “left-behind” voters to whom the Brexit vote is mainly attributed. I wonder if this blame is largely misdirected.
The phrase in your main editorial on Saturday that shrieked at me was “the voters looked to their wallets first”. How, I wonder, is any party expected to mount a credible opposition to the present Conservative austerity policies when most voters refuse to accept the truth that to have decent health and social services, education, roads, arts and local services, together with civilised support for the young, the disabled and those falling on hard times requires all of us to contribute realistically to the national coffers? This includes all individuals except the very poorest and both small and large businesses, commensurate with their ability to pay.
We can only expect politicians to offer credible alternative policies when they are able to feel convinced that all of us (except the very poorest) are willing to take responsibility as grown-ups and opt for moderate increases in progressive taxes such as income tax and realistically valued property taxes.
Who, I wonder, is going to take the lead on that?
Jenny Clemens, Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex
Gina Miller is right to demand the Lords do what the Commons chose not to. After all, the Leavers have always demanded that our Parliament and Courts should rule supreme. The problem is that we suffer from having no opposition to the Government, and Jeremy Corbyn must be seen, now and in history, as the arch wimp who has abrogated his responsibility to the people.
The Lords should not be rushed or harried in their debate, but give full weight to all the arguments that ensure Parliament, and not the Government, will have the final say. There is no need for speed as the March deadline for Article 50 is a Government contrivance; it should not be seen as an immutable date.
The Prime Minister may well come to rue her timetable that will see the UK leaving the EU a full year before the next general election. This gap allows ample time for the consequences a hard Brexit to sink in – particularly as, in all probability, there will be no meaningful external trade deals in place within that first year.
By May 2020, the attraction of returning to the Single Market may well appeal to many who first voted to Leave the EU, and could become the rallying call for Labour who, under a new centrist leader, might deny the Tories their expected majority. Indeed such an outcome may well be essential to prevent the SNP from breaking the Union.
May would do well to allow the Lords to make their amendments and for the Commons to pass them, otherwise she will simply become the leader of the lemmings scampering to the cliff edge of March 2019 – and she may see the UK crumble before she sinks.
Christopher Pastakia, Chelmsford
In his article published in The Independent on the 24 February, Mike Harris suggests that “the next Conservative manifesto is likely to include a pledge to rip up the most significant rights protection available to UK citizens”. He is most likely correct in his assumptions, as the Conservative manifesto of 2015 clearly states: “The next Conservative Government will scrap the Human Rights Act, and introduce a British Bill of Rights. This will break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights, and make our own Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK.” We can presume this was regardless of the outcome of the 2015 referendum.
Furthermore it could be argued that the drive to a hard Brexit has nothing to do with controlling immigration but rather a concerted effort by a hard-right Tory government to free itself of the constraints of the European Courts and European Human Rights to enact a British Bill of Rights which will be driven by Iain Duncan Smith, Jacob Rees-Mogg and co.
The one thing that can be guaranteed from this is that the citizens of the UK will be afforded as many rights as these people see fit, or until it affects the bottom line. Any suggestion that Parliament will not allow such a thing is an ill-founded one, as Parliament has shown itself to be largely irrelevant in the last weeks.
D Worsley, Merseyside
It was deeply disappointing to hear London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, describe the SNP and Scottish nationalists as “racist”. Wrap yourself in the Union flag, isolate yourself off, sing “Rule Britannia”, attack immigration, and you are a “patriot”. Seek equality for Scotland in the world, welcome immigrants and seek an inclusive society and you are “racist and bigoted”, no different from the BNP.
Khan – who should know all about racism, especially given the nature of the Mayoral election – is a man I have respect for. But he clearly should know better than to describe those in Scotland who vote for the SNP, many being former Labour voters you would naturally expect he would be looking to win back, as racist.
There are two different types of nationalism. The British nationalism I have already highlighted, that is ethnic in nature, seeking to unite the indigenous population against the perceived threat of outsiders. For all of us in Europe, ethnic nationalism casts a long shadow.
Civic nationalism, however – and that which is promoted by the SNP – seeks an inclusive society based on where you are, not where you’re from. People that back independence for Scotland don’t do so because of a hatred of others, as Khan thinks. Ultimately they seek equality for Scotland in the world – not saying that we as a nation are better than any others, but simply wanting to be the same, on an equal footing. That sadly is something Khan is clearly unwilling or unable to understand.
Alex Orr, Edinburgh
The Oscars are an embarrassment
Even the farce of announcing the wrong Best Picture pales in comparison to the nonsense of not one of the following having been awarded an Oscar: Lauren Bacall, Richard Burton, Montgomery Clift, Glenn Close, Tom Cruise, John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Kirk Douglas, Clint Eastwood, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Errol Flynn, Harrison Ford, Greta Garbo, Richard Gere, Cary Grant, Trevor Howard, Rock Hudson, Samuel L Jackson, Steve Martin, James Mason, Liam Neeson, Peter O’Toole, Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan, Peter Sellers, Will Smith, Donald Sutherland or John Travolta.
Rev Dr John Cameron, St Andrews
The thing which gets me far more than the Oscars ceremony itself is the value of the outrageously lavish goodie bags the stars receive. Estimates say this year’s “swag bags” are worth an obscene £208,500.
Judi Martin, Maryculter, Aberdeenshire
What’s the benefit?
There is no doubt that the current benefits system is mired in disarray, confusion and inadequacies, throwing some into the clutches of destitution and disenfranchisement, exacerbating their mental health illnesses.
In its desire to reduce the budget's deficit, Theresa May’s Government is taxing the poor, the marginalised and the most vulnerable in society. Many benefits advisers are ill-trained in mental health issues. They are only trained to tick boxes and push claimants into low-skilled jobs that, in most cases, do not match their knowledge and expertise. This is not what Theresa May pledged: to create a more fairer, a more tolerant, a more prospering society for all irrespective of colour, social caste, religious affiliation, financial background or political persuasion.
Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob, London NW2
Trump’s new ban
So the BBC, the UK’s leading public service broadcaster, is not invited to a White House briefing. Where is the response from Number 10? If Theresa May had an ounce of leadership ability, and an interest in how news is reported in this country, she would have been outraged at the attitude being displayed by the American President. This is clear proof that we are becoming a poodle of Donald Trump.
Richard Elliott, Marlow
Now is the time for The New York Times to print an Independent-style front page: completely blank but for a small central square containing the words: “The President did nothing yesterday, so far as we know, as we were not invited to his press briefing.”
Brian Mathieson, Plymouth
Yes it’s a scandal: “NHS contractor ‘loses half a million medically sensitive documents’“. The real scandal is the NHS dependency on paper and the complete failure of the service to deliver online. My GP practice gives me no online access to blood test and other monitoring results, appointments or my patient records. Consider how little routine commercial correspondence is now carried by the Royal Mail. Yet prescriptions still need to be collected in person, delivered to the pharmacist, and collected by the patient or their representative. Patient letters are collected by hand, or sent through the post
I have often wondered what are the hidden patient costs of these manual processes? Quite obviously there is also a huge overhead in paying companies like NHS Shared Business Services to transport internal correspondence. Obviously we have the best healthcare system in the world – but why do other countries, notably in Scandinavia do this so much better?
Chris King, London N3
News at… when?
Who gave permission to drop the ITN News at Ten from its late night spot to give way to so-called funny man David Walliams, where the only laughs come from the mouth of Walliams himself? How could a national institution like the News at Ten be dropped for half-an-hour of slapstick on ITV? What is more important: world affairs or cheap comedy? I will have to drink my cocoa after switching to another channel.
Terry Duncan, Bridlington, East Yorkshire
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