Letters: Nothing British about values

These letters appear in the Tuesday 17th issue of The Independent

I’m getting fed up with all this tub-thumping about “British values”. It is right that we should be instilling respect for moral values among our children, but these values are espoused by every civilised and democratic nation.

As someone with many friends and relatives of a variety of nationalities, I am offended on their behalf by the idea that my values might be superior to theirs simply because I am British.

I’m afraid this discussion smacks of a very British characteristic for which we are well known worldwide – arrogance.

Francis Kirkham

Crediton, Devon

Ramji Abinashi (letter, 14 June) wonders if jealousy is a British value. Thanks to the tabloid press, it probably is.

The class system in this country is now characterised by aggressive inverse snobbery, and posh-bashing seems to have become a socially acceptable pastime.

The Posh Ones often respond to this with irony, self-deprecating humour and estuary accents. All terribly confusing for first-generation immigrants like me!

Saraswati Narayan

Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

It’s a tough world outside the UK

In her thoughtful article (12 June) JK Rowling tactfully omitted the disaster which overtook the Scottish people when they last attempted to compete commercially with the established mercantile power (the East India Company and others).

I refer to the abortive attempt to open a trading establishment on the isthmus of Panama known as the Darien expedition. John Prebble in his book The Darien Disaster gives a clear account of this fiasco. Agencies throughout the world were instructed to refuse any help to the settlers, and the attempt nearly bankrupted the nation.

The “pro” movement should be warned!

Sir Alastair Stewart

Little Baddow, Essex

I take issue with John Rentoul (12 June) when he says there was no alternative to restricting the franchise for the independence referendum to current residents of Scotland.

As he says himself, he could play sport for Scotland on the basis of his mother being half Scottish. I have not heard anyone claiming that only “pure-bred Scots” should have a right to vote, but a system which allowed a vote to those who were themselves born in Scotland, or had a Scottish-born parent or grandparent, as well as to those currently resident, would seem to be reasonable.

Compilation of the register would be time-consuming but hardly beyond the wit of man and the capacity of modern technology.

A Flores

London SW15

Schools don’t need ‘faith’

Why do we have “faith” schools in the 21st century? What correlation is there between a child’s “faith” and the learning of, say, maths or French?

Weren’t schools originally instituted by churches simply because they had the means and organisation to do so in the absence of any government-funded system? Since that imperative has long gone, why is there any rationale for schools now to be funded or run on the basis of allegiance to a “faith”?

Get rid of them altogether; the Pandora’s box that Mr Gove has opened with his ludicrous “free schools” project will unleash forces that will make what’s (allegedly) been going on in Birmingham look mild.

Antony Randle

London NW10

How Mick Jagger should feel

A woman dictating how a man should behave, with no insight into his emotions? Surely not!

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (16 June) lashes Mick Jagger for “apparently throwing himself into the arms” of a 27-year-old ballerina. She turns the screw, with a line about how he should think about how his children will feel seeing him with a younger woman.

We may think we have seen it all before, but none of us really knows what another individual feels or is going through at such a time. Shouldn’t grown-up children be happy if their father is even just getting through the day after such a horrible tragedy?

Tina Rowe

Ilchester, Somerset

First green shoots spotted on the A34

Hopefully I have detected a sign of the end of the recession: a marked increase in the truck-driver World Cup. That is, the slower-than-thou, rolling roadblock, they-shall-not-pass overtaking game. On the positive side, if the principles of physics do change and pulling out of a slipstream results in an increase of speed then this world first will have been detected right here – on the very lovely A34.

Alan Hallsworth

Waterlooville, Hampshire

Greetings from Wiltshire

When introduced to my wife-to-be’s family in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, in the 1970s, I was greeted with an “Ow bist?” Having recently taken up Anglo Saxon I now realise that I was being addressed in pre-1066 style – “bist” meaning “are” in Anglo-Saxon.

John E Orton


Don’t just let Iraq slide into the abyss

The gruesome beheading of Iraqi soldiers shows beyond doubt the viciousness of extremists. Is it enough to sit in the comfort of our homes in the west, ponder how misbegotten the whole Iraqi folly has become and condemn the terrorists who are defaming Islam?

King Abdallah of Jordan was among the first to warn that if Iraq did not settle quickly into a cohesive polity that represents the aspirations of its people and brings stability and security, without Iran’s interference, then the Israeli-Palestinian issue would no longer be the principal recruiting sergeant for jihadism.

Iran’s clout over the Shia-led government in Iraq, its patronage of Hezbollah, Hamas and Assad’s Baathist regime were bound to ignite religious rivalries.

But most importantly, the youth remain victims of poverty and high unemployment. Decades of western colonialism to conquer oil reservoirs have contributed to this sad saga.

The region is plunging into the abyss. We cannot afford to see this mayhem spreading into Jordan, the last oasis of tranquillity in this volatile region. We have a moral obligation to stand up and end the enduring turmoil Bush and Blair created.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London NW2

This is by nature of an appeal, on behalf of the British people, to all governments, despots, international organisations and borderline religious fanatics everywhere: please, please do not give any more money or attention to our quondam Prime Minister, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, or to any foundations which he claims to represent.

Yes, it is true that in a moment of misjudged euphoria we entrusted him with the governance of our nation, but we all make mistakes. We even, for a while, gave him the benefit of the doubt as his latent messianism and obsession with wealth meshed so conveniently with a foreign audience far removed from his erstwhile electors.

It may seem to all you jolly dictators, oligarchs, kleptocrats and god-botherers that you have acquired an invaluable asset on the international stage, a master of media, a man who really does dance with the devil. But the artist formerly known as “Tony” is now an increasingly desperate case, requiring sympathy rather than cash.

Delusional to the last, he will offer himself as spokesman for ever more desperate crusades. But for your revoltingly well-upholstered sakes, and ours, just say no.

Christopher Dawes

London W11

Boris Johnson is right to tell Blair to put a sock in it. Iraq is a mess caused by Bush and Blair’s illegal invasion, and those who supported that war ought to be thoroughly ashamed.

It’s simple: our war broke the chains that held the country together. Under Saddam Hussein’s secular regime Sunnis and Shia did not fight each other. Al-Qa’ida did not exist in Iraq until we invaded and they came there to fight us, and that’s the legacy our irresponsible war has left.

Our foreign policy needs to be reversed. We ought to support both the Iraqi and Syrian governments fighting Isis and bring Iran in from the cold before al-Qa’ida takes over the entire Middle East.

Mark Holt


Along with the hundreds of thousands who died in the catastrophic Blair/Bush Iraq war, tens of thousands are now likely to perish in weeks of bloodletting.

Whatever Blair says – and he is surely becoming a laughing-stock – this is a direct result of the UK/US lack of post-war planning – and most particularly of not incorporating the Iraqi officer corps, army and civil servants into a new western-shaped Iraq.

Let us no longer be fooled by smooth-talking evangelicals who won’t or can’t take responsibility for their bloody mistakes.

Stefan Wickham


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