Letters: Corbyn opens a debate we need to have

The following letters appear in the 25 August edition of The Independent

Independent Voices@IndyVoices
Monday 24 August 2015 19:19

The latest attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s candidacy comes from Chris Leslie, Labour’s shadow Chancellor, who has appealed to party members “to look at the small print and make sure they are making an informed choice before voting for Mr Corbyn”. In other words, Leslie claims that Corbyn’s numbers don’t add up.

If you think within the broad thrust of neoliberal economic settlement – the primacy of market forces, privatisation, the replacement of manufacturing by financial services as the hub of the UK economy – then the numbers do not add up. However, Corbyn raises issues that go beyond this short-term neoliberal orthodoxy.

Corbyn’s candidacy has at least initiated a productive discussion on longer-term views of what a sustainable UK economy should look like. The central problem of the UK economy currently is that it cannot sustain a reasonable balance of payments at socially acceptable levels of public consumption and employment. The position of the UK economy on this has deteriorated continuously and seriously since early 2000s.

There is now a desperate need for a serious and careful investment policy to increase the level of productivity. This can be done by investing in basic research, technology, skills in general, and essential infrastructure. All this requires a rethink of the relationship between the state and private sector.

None of these can be achieved, even considered, within the parameters of current economic thinking; that’s why what Corbyn’s candidacy offers is different.

If the Labour Party only offers similar policies to the current Conservative government, then why do we need the Labour Party? If it does not offer a realistic and significant alternative then the Labour Party will become redundant.

Corbyn offers a breath of fresh air and debate which the country desperately needs.

Bulent Gokay
Professor of International Relations, Keele University

You report (20 August) that Jeremy Corbyn plans to use supporters “to push our agenda up to the parliamentary party and get them to follow that”. This approach takes no account of the need for political parties to attract the votes of a sufficient proportion of the electorate. It is strikingly reminiscent of the attitude of the left wing of the Labour Party in the 1980s. And we know where that led.

Gordon Kuphal
Colchester, Essex

Following his criticism of Jeremy Corbyn and his Palestinian so-called friends (letter, 19 August), perhaps Paul Charney of the Zionist Federation UK can tell us whether he considers the Zionist extremists in the illegal West Bank settlements as his friends.

Michael W Cook
Soulbury, Buckinghamshire

Why did the BBC sack the Met Office?

Right-wing Tories are determined to undermine any institution that expresses concern about climate change, and ultimately to repeal the Climate Change Act.

The Met Office is one of the three organisations that provides data on global temperatures, and its Hadley Centre is a world-renowned institution that provides forecasts about global warming. It is predictable that a Daily Mail columnist would seek to propagate criticism of the Met Office, but the worrying aspect is that the programme was broadcast on Radio 4, three weeks before the BBC discontinued its contract with the Met Office (“Storm over BBC decision to end contract with Met Office”, 24 August)

It is difficult to know whether the BBC is undermining the importance of climate change because of political pressure, or whether its editors are scientifically illiterate, but coverage of climate change on BBC News is lamentable.

Between 2007 and 2013, a period when the scientific approach to climate change became a world-wide consensus, coverage of environmental issues on BBC News fell from 1.6 per cent to an almost unrecordable 0.3 per cent

This cannot be defended on the grounds of balance, but it does help to explain why the current government has adopted environmental policies which are a betrayal of future generations.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

Migrants pay their taxes

My wife and I have a young man who, once a month, tends our garden. (We are quite elderly.) He has a business with his own website and provides us always with a printed bill with time taken and cost plus VAT. He certainly pays his taxes. He comes from Hungary.

We have had similar honest experiences with our previous gardener (from Romania) and a plumber (Polish). Our cleaner, who falls below the tax limit, comes from Bulgaria.

From a non-economic perspective, we have two neighbours who, each week, take our wheelie bins to the main road and return them when emptied. He came from Ukraine and she from Estonia. They have their own business.

We have recently had two pieces of work carried out by indigenous white males. In each case we found, at the end of their work, that “cash would be more convenient”, in fact more or less required, certainly expected.

The question is: are all of our experiences exceptional? From the outpourings of politicians and the media, I should have expected the positions to be reversed, with dodgy migrants and honest British workers. Not so.

John Phillips
London SW14

The UK government has pledged over £9m in recent months to improve security at Calais – that is, to keep refugees out.

The UN High Commissioner states that most of the refugees at Calais are fleeing violence – they fled their homes fearing for their lives. If they were able to reach British soil, they would have to be treated as the genuine asylum seekers that they are. Presumably it is rather difficult to apply for a visa to come to the UK when you are fleeing war-torn Syria, or totalitarian Ethiopia.

Could the Government try the humane approach for a change? Process some applications in Calais and spend the nine million on allowing some refugees in and giving them the chance of a decent life?

Helen Griffin

Ways to manage diabetes

While I appreciate Malcolm Howard’s well-intentioned points (letters, 19 August) about lifestyle changes and weight loss being an “effective cure”, it does not necessarily work for many of us living with Type 2 diabetes who have never fitted the often widely held belief that we all fall into the obese category which can be self-managed effectively.

My diagnosis followed months of steady weight loss from my naturally slim frame and I was unwell for some time before it was controlled with medication and a dietary adjustment.

It is a lifelong, complicated medical condition which, if ignored, will most probably result in sufferers becoming an even greater burden on the NHS rather than just its drugs budget.

Implied criticism of Diabetes UK for its failure to promote Malcolm’s message is unfair in my opinion, and their excellent “Diabetes for Beginners”, which I often refer to since being diagnosed in 2008, goes a long way to putting the record straight.

Ian Hibbard
Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

Hamlet in any order

Lyndsey Turner, the director of the Cumberbatch Hamlet, has every right to make “To be or not to be” a movable feast. It’s exactly what Shakespeare did himself.

The First Quarto of Hamlet (1603) places this speech before “Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I” and the Second Quarto (1604/5) – the version now generally followed – after it. I prefer the earlier version as it allows Hamlet to enter “poring upon a book” – so “To be or not to be” becomes a quote from the book itself.

Stewart Trotter
London W9

End the sham of a privatised railway

Janet Street-Porter (22 August) should be reminded that the franchised companies that run the trains in England, Scotland and Wales are effectively running on “nationalised” infrastructure lines funded by the state through Network Rail. The railway companies pick up the profits and the state picks up the bills and debts. Whose idea of fairness is that?

The railway privatisation set-up is a complete sham. Renationalise the railways and let the state benefit from the profits generated.

Clifford Evans
Fishguard, Pembrokeshire

Let those savages stay noble

Ellie Mae O’Hagan is surely wrong to define a noble savage as “a foreign person who manages to adapt to European values” (20 August). Quite the contrary: the concept epitomises the theory that human nature is at its best when entirely uncorrupted by “civilisation”.

George MacDonald Ross

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