So Blair is returning to British politics. Bequeathing us the folly of the Dome, the horrors of the Iraq war and the expense, inconvenience, tedium and hazards of the Olympics, surely he has done harm enough?
John Kampfner (4 May), while being fully entitled to his opinions about Tony Blair, cannot claim that his horrific wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which may have claimed over one million lives, represented an era of "humanitarian intervention".
The absurdity of this is apparent in the many civilian deaths and the exploitation of a sovereign nation's resources. Further, if the wretched Mr Blair was genuinely interested in human rights, he wouldn't have helped to render people to be tortured by Gaddafi, he wouldn't be an apologist for Israel's war crimes, and he would not be a PR consultant to the brutal Kazakh regime.
Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire
So, following his brilliant success in solving the Middle East problem, Tony Blair is coming home. That's great – because what working people in this country really need right now is another privately educated, rich Tory who's hugger-mugger with a bloke called Rupert and who has a penchant for privatising public services.
Crawley Down, West Sussex
The haunted face of Blair in the 3 May paper looked like an illustration from Crime and Punishment; appropriate enough, I thought, except when is he going to get the punishment? John Kampfner (4 May) may say that Iraq is a closed chapter in military history, but thousands of us are still watching and waiting.
If Mr Blair intends to re-engage with British politics at Westminster (report, 3 May), he should be warned that he faces citizen's arrest until the day he finally stands in the dock to face charges that, during his term of office, he breached the Geneva Conventions in relation to the war in Iraq, an illegal invasion, the consequences of which persist today, not least the fact that young women in Fallujah are now advised not to have children as a consequence of this war.
Nicholas Wood, Dr Chris Burns-Cox, Felicity Arbuthnot, Sara Chatt (on behalf of the Blair War Crimes Foundation), London NW3
Hollande's victory offers fresh hope for Europe
The emergence in France of a challenge to the world consensus on how to tackle the West's economic problems will be judged in the fullness of time by how successful it is. What is not in doubt is that FrançoisHollande's proposed – Keynesian – remedies have been used with great success in the past – most notably by the US before and after the Second World War.
The present naive economic model of comparing a country's economy to that of a household, popularised by Mrs Thatcher, ignores the fact that the debts of countries and trading groups bear no relationship to those of a household. Taken literally, the consequences of this parallel would be to pay off all debts by selling the house, car and investments and end up on the street with no resources. Now homeless, we are theoretically free to start again, from scratch, with no debts and no basis from which to do so.
The seven or eight years to "get straight" that Cameron and Clegg proposed on Tuesday will put us a decade behind our competitors.
François Hollande wants to end austerity and concentrate on growth (report, 7 May; letters, 9 May); Angela Merkel, on the other hand, wants to promote growth through structural reforms, while keeping the austerity measures intact. But there is a middle way.
The EU is a multicultural melting pot. Some cultures are more conducive to austerity measures and economic reforms than others. Hence no single policy could be applied across Europe.
Since Germany itself – not too long ago – successfully stimulated economic growth through a small stimulus package (1.5 per cent of GDP), is it not time a similar prescription – austerity measures coupled with a small short-term fiscal stimulus – was considered for the French and other European economies?
Such a prescription may not please Germany, but it will go a long way towards lessening the growth of extreme ideologies that invariably ensue from stagnating incomes and declining living standards.
Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex
Democracy and neoliberal economic theory and practice are incompatible. Under the baleful influence of the Bretton Woods institutions and their successors, the world's governments have been reduced to ciphers and their electorates disenfranchised.
Whereas in a democracy one person has one vote, in our new economic theocracy we have one dollar having one vote. The block vote (transnational corporations, banks, ratings agencies, high net worth individuals, etc) inevitably carries the day. Should a democratically elected government have the temerity to dissent in any degree, ruin is sure to follow. Perhaps Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Iceland and others who chaff under the market jackboot can now begin the process of reasserting genuine democracy.
Haydon Bridge, Northumberland
Racism across the globe
Robert Fisk does a good job of exposing the ongoing racism in the Arab world against migrant workers of Asian origin ("Arab Spring has washed the region's appalling racism out of the news", 7 May), but he could have also drawn attention to the racism against blacks that has been directly tied to regional unrest. In Libya, militias dedicated to "purging slaves and black skin" ethnically cleansed all blacks from Tawergha near Misrata during the civil war.
Other cases of anti-black racism include Sudan, where thousands of black Christians and animists captured during Khartoum's wars of aggression (carried out as part of a campaign of Islamisation) against the populations of what is now South Sudan remain in slavery; and Iraq, which has caught up with its Gulf neighbours in the trend of bringing in forced labour from the Indian subcontinent and East Africa. In fact, in the southern port city of Basra there is a large black population descended from slaves imported over a millennium ago: some of the wealthier tribal sheikhs in the area still keep members of this community as slaves.
In Arabic it is common even today to refer to a black person as "abid", which has derogatory connotations of slavery. Clearly there is still a very long way to go before the Arab world approaches the standards of tolerance upheld in the West.
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
Brasenose College, Oxford
The struggles faced by carers
You report (8 May) that unpaid carers are struggling to provide care because of cuts in local-authority funding. I agree that middle-aged carers – typically family members – are struggling and exhausted. But my experience with my parents and parents-in-law, and the experience of almost every one of my friends in middle age, is that we are providing care not because the local authority will not, but because the generation currently in its 80s will not accept care of any sort from outside the family, strenuously refusing to allow "strangers" into their home or near them.
There may be plenty of cases where funding is an issue, but there are plenty where it is not. I know one case where the father of a family still in education has to take a train from London to Sunderland every weekend to care for his 93-year-old father. Not all social problems can be resolved by more funding.
Crayfish come in many guises
I was surprised to read in Mark Hix's recipe for stargazy pie (Magazine, 5 May) that crayfish "are classed as vermin and in need of culling". This is highly misleading and could lead readers into undertaking illegal fishing. The native or white-clawed crayfish is an endangered species that is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act which prohibits both the taking and the offering for sale of the species (or parts thereof). Punishment for offences can be a fine of up to £5,000 per offence or up to six months in custody.
The American or Signal Crayfish is indeed an invasive pest that is considered to be largely responsible for the decline of the native species. Nevertheless, anyone intending to fish for this species is first required to obtain a permit from the Environment Agency. Because of the risk of misidentification this is only likely to be granted for waters in which the native species is not considered to be present.
I am sure Mr Hix's pie is delicious, but readers should be very careful about how and where they source the ingredients!
Newcastle upon Tyne
Whatever the weather
Why Brighton? Every time there are extremes of hot/cold/wet weather, Brighton is shown (front page, 8 May). I live in North Yorkshire, on the northern edge of the North York Moor national park, and over the weekend, we enjoyed cool, dry weather, ideal for gardening and walking, on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and all day Monday. I like this north/ south divide.
Guisborough, North Yorkshire
Reform of the House of Lords
Elected House of Lords? Soft billet for failing MPs, more like; no wonder they like the idea – especially the bit where they only have to turn up one day in three to hang on to the job. A random selection of the adult population would be best. That really would hold MPs to account.
Pity the pedant
Please spare a thought for the pedants who know what an Olympiad is. We shudder when your pages on the "Cultural Olympiad" imply it is an event. An Olympiad is a period of four years: London will celebrate the Games of the XXXth Olympiad. Not everyone knows that. Obviously.
Don't despair; all is not lost ("Rain stops asparagus festival", 4 May). We've just enjoyed some absolutely delicious asparagus, from Southport (near Formby), purchased at Booth's Clitheroe store: perhaps the British Asparagus Fair should be relocated!
David Ashton (letter, 7 May) is absolutely right: no other language uses prepositions as we do. Unhappily, the widespread reluctance to use them at all is equally evident, to the detriment of any proper sense of verbs being essentially either transitive or intransitive. Such gaffes as appealing or impacting not being followed respectively by against and on can, to our shame, be encountered daily.
Dewsbury, West Yorkshire
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