Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell would not have allowed ‘Traingate’

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Friday 26 August 2016 18:45 BST
Jeremy Corbyn’s Virgin Train video was ‘badly executed’, one reader says
Jeremy Corbyn’s Virgin Train video was ‘badly executed’, one reader says (PA)

The “Traingate” affair isn’t (or certainly wasn’t) a discussion about private or public ownership of the railways, billionaire tax avoidance or the use of CCTV images without consent, as warranted of discussion as those subjects are. The discussion was about Jeremy Corbyn, whose most appealing attribute to many potential voters is that of a leader rejecting the media politics of New Labour and David Cameron's Conservatives, with its spin and stage-managed photo opportunities.

Anyone with a remotely objective view would have to concede that this was a badly executed attempt at just that. Given the number of dangerously overcrowded trains he could have chosen, it's hard to understand how he got it wrong (any commuter train into Kings Cross at 8.15am on a week day would have done the trick). You suspect Campbell and Blair wouldn’t have made such a basic error.

Given this appears to have been set up by the leader of a party who announced that “the era of spin doctor politics is over”, something that's very attractive to an electorate who is frankly very tired of it, it shouldn't be as immaterial as Holly Baxter suggests. Nationalising the railways, shameless tax avoidance and invasion of people's privacy are very important subjects, just not this subject.

Jeremy Porter Buckley, North Wales

I can’t help thinking that Traingate is making us miss the wood for the trees. Perhaps Jeremy Corbyn, deprived of a perch, did indeed sit on the floor; perhaps he walked past many empty seats so to do. But it is sad that in the politics of 2016 Britain, the real question – namely, how do we make the railways better – has gone unasked, let alone unanswered.

The biggest issue with privatisation in the rail industry seems to be its success. The number of people travelling by train now is a significant multiple of what it was in the days of British Rail, and for that the train companies need to be congratulated. But we have to recognise that the railways do not have infinite capacity; the standard ways of increasing capacity in a transport system cannot deliver. Longer trains? Not without longer platforms. Double deck trains? Not without massive changes to bridges, tunnels and overhead wires. Run them closer together? That impacts on safety.

The only issue that may help is building more track, and we know from the bitter experience of HS1 and HS2 just how happy that makes people. NIMBYism is a real thing. We may ask why the trains are better in France, but a look at the map makes that obvious: France is a largely flat and empty country, so building a high speed line between two cities is not a titanic battle between state and citizens' vegetable patches. Try the same in the UK and the pitchforks come out.

It's not a nationalisation versus privatisation argument; that's avoiding the question. What we need is an understanding that making it better is not just about money, but about the impacts on a lot of our fellow citizens. And their allotments.

Tim Lee-Foster Pissouri Bay, Cyprus

The accounts of the making of the forthcoming blockbuster Carry on up the East Coast have provided welcome entertainment in a rather gloomy season. It is, however, unfair to criticise Jeremy Corbyn for following the usual practice in railway epics – dating at least from From Russia with Love – of using a more convenient set than the train being represented. Had he boarded a real commuter train with his film crew to find a place to sit on the floor he might reasonably have been arrested for being a public nuisance.

Robert Gould Edinburgh

Simon Calder really needs to appear before a Transport Select Committee where his understanding of rail transport may help kill off the pointless Grand Project that is HS2. The £70bn we're proposing to spend on this would surely be better spent on capacity increases on existing lines and new lines into our major population centres.

I have never understood who will use the capacity HS2 will deliver. Arriving in Manchester 40 minutes earlier from London would not be worth the extra cost of a HS2 train ticket for the students, non-working parents with kids and pensioners, who are the bulk of users of inter-city trains. Perhaps Manchester will become a commuter town with annual tickets priced in the many tens of thousands?

Alasdair Combe Address withheld

Burkini ban prompts anger

How incredible to see the once tolerant land of France being reduced to a scene where a police officer can stand over a Muslim woman insisting she take her clothes off. You could not make it up. If this ludicrous act of intolerance is in some way intended to deter terrorism, it won’t work. This act shows France effectively giving in to the tyranny of the terrorists, reducing the human rights of its citizens at the behest of the perceived threat.

Britain can provide the evidence of what happens when a single religion or nationality is made into a suspect community. The British did it to the Irish during the war in Northern Ireland. A community under attack closes in on itself, providing harbour for those who might move to extreme actions and be radicalised. It is absolutely the worst thing to do, if the French are serious about countering the terrorist threat.

The call of “give me your liberties and I will provide security” has been the cry of dictators down the ages. It would be sad to see the great nation of France succumbing to such a call, and in the process destroying the very liberties it has fought for so many centuries to preserve.

Paul Donovan London, E11

The problem with the burkini is the head covering. I don’t think anyone cares about women or men wearing a full body swimsuit but covering the head in public is pure provocation by Muslim women who are not European and want to show they are different. Whether it is a burka, hijab or niqab, the headdress is designed to separate Muslim women from the rest of society.

Peter Fieldman Paris, France

Surely the best response to this stupid burkini ban is for hoards of women to storm the beaches dressed in leggings and long sleeved loose fitting tops. The police would then have their work cut out deciding which were the Muslims. I see Marks & Spencer has sold out of this season’s very flattering burkinis. Not all women want to expose their bare flesh to damaging sunlight.

Valerie Morgan Leigh on Sea

Trump and Farage: the perfect match

In a summer of depressing news, a ray of hope at last: Nigel Farage has found his natural home. Trump and Farage truly deserve each other; the American voters deserve better. Trump displays erratic intelligence and will sink into his own abyss at some point, but Farage is wily, arguably brighter and consequently more dangerous. Most terrifying of all is the number of Americans who support the ideas of both appalling men. Whatever the shortcomings of Hillary Clinton, let's hope America votes her in. Maybe then they can find a backwater where Trump and Farage can rant away to their supporters without poisoning the minds of right-thinking citizens on either side of the Atlantic.

Sue Breadner Isle of Man

A second chance on Brexit

The case for a second referendum, or preferably a General Election, on the terms of the Brexit deal is compelling. The recursive logic of Theresa May's “Brexit means Brexit” tag are fine as a stopgap to hold off accusations of back sliding, but it won’t last. Whatever the tag means, it cannot mean the same as its equivalent in sport: “a win is a win”. The UK had many advantages in its EU membership, with opt outs from the euro, the social chapter and Schengen. With such a narrow edge in the referendum we should be aiming to go from slightly in to slightly out.

Geoff Holmes Lymington

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