I have been discussing the general election with friends and family members and have discovered that, almost without exception, no one is sure how they will vote come 7 May.
No one trusts Cameron, no one has any confidence in Miliband, Clegg is seen as a watered-down Cameron, Farage and Ukip are seen either as a joke or dangerous and the Greens are considered too extreme or a wasted vote. None of the Above seems by far the best option and, unfortunately, we cannot vote for him. I have never known such lack of faith in all of the parties. Do others feel this way?
This is a poor reflection on current parliamentary democracy and is, in part, because of the behaviour of MPs on expenses and personal conduct, but also because our party leaders, frankly, manage to combine incompetence, a lack of reliability and a strong perception that they do not have a clue how the rest of the country thinks and lives, or how to address the problems the country faces.
Where is the Harry Kane of politics to come and save us? I am afraid he is almost certainly busy designing his next app and we will be stuck with this lot for the foreseeable future.
As we move inexorably towards the election in which it is predicted that no one will receive a clear majority, would it not be wise to consider a government of national unity, like Churchill’s in the Second World War?
Would that not provide a truly democratic institution where all parties have to work together? They already do this very effectively in the select committees, so why not at government level?
Readers will be interested to hear of a further benefit in the coming weeks from opting out of receiving junk mail through the post (letters, 19, 20, 21, 23 March).
The postman tells me that he will not be delivering leaflets to us from any of the political parties in the run-up to the general election.
Thank you, Royal Mail.
Leicester’s big day out for Richard III
The Leicester folk I know (and am closely related to) were full of enthusiasm for the huge moral and economic boost the wonderful week of celebrations centred on the reinterment of Richard III has given to a city which has recently seen very difficult times.
They commented on how moved they were by the church services, and how proud they were of Philippa Langley, Richard Buckley and the archaeological team at the University of Leicester. But clearly they live in a completely different city from Sean O’Grady (“We Leicester folk have one question: how much did it all cost?” 27 March).
This was a major national and international event (television crews from 58 countries were present) and the city welcomed its visitors warmly. Hotels fully booked for months, museums seeing a great increase in visitor numbers, people queuing round the block to pay their respects, the cathedral full for every service; I see only benefit for Leicester in the longer term.
“Whether we are Ricardians or Shakespeareans... today we all come to accord this King... the dignity and honour denied him in death”.
Sorry, but what tosh from the Bishop of Leicester. What about the dignity and honour denied to the uncrowned King Edward V, and his brother Richard, Duke of York?
I believe that the consensus of most professional historians of the period is that Richard III was responsible for their deaths. Most historians, I believe, are neither Ricardians, nor Shakespeareans, but see Richard as he was: a late medieval king prepared to be ruthless to secure his position.
Barry Shepherd says that if Richard III was English he is a Dutchman (letter, 30 March).
Naming royal dynasties after a paternal ancestor is handy but this airbrushes out the female members of the family, whose genes are just as valid.
The Norman conquest did not see all Anglo-Saxon blood drain out of the monarchy. William the Conqueror’s queen was descended from King Alfred, and their son Henry I married another descendant of Alfred, Henry’s daughter, Matilda, and therefore had a good dollop of English blood – which she passed on to her son Henry II, and it has run in every monarch since.
Matilda married the Count of Anjou, a Plantagenet, so Henry II and his descendants in the male line, including Richard III, were called Plantagenet, but they could not have existed without King Alfred, and the fact that some were born in England should count for something.
Maybe someone will argue that Alfred and his line aren’t really English either. If that is true then none of us is.
Crowded trains into Paddington
James Moore is right to state in his Outlook article (24 March) that the Great Western railway into London Paddington is an economically important route into the capital and that commuter trains can be overcrowded.
The section of the route on the approach to Paddington is one of the most intensively worked sections of railway in the country, with not just First Great Western’s trains, but also the Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect, as well as freight traffic.
We have never shied away from this and have taken steps to improve capacity, including the introduction of 48 additional carriages secured after negotiations with the Department for Transport in 2011 and the conversion of some first-class carriages to standard class, giving an extra 3,000 standard-class seats.
The new deal announced on 23 March is part of the biggest investment in the Great Western route since Brunel. It gives passengers newer trains, faster, more frequent services, and, importantly given recent growth, 9,000 more seats to be added every day by December 2018.
This includes measures to introduce longer trains into Paddington between 8am and 9am, which will provide a 25 per cent increase in seats during the busiest hour of the day, over and above the 16 per cent uplift during the morning peak between 7am and 10am, mentioned in the article.
It’s also worth noting that Crossrail will start to operate from 2018, providing more options for customers and giving us confidence that the route will be able to cope with expected numbers.
Managing Director, First Great Western, London W2
GM Problems can be sorted out
It is unsurprising that NGOs such as Friends of the Earth, the Soil Association and GM Freeze reacted with such trepidation to your series on GM (letter, 27 March), but their case is full of half-truths.
While it is true that resistance to broad-spectrum herbicides is a real problem in the US, this is due to poor management that could be ameliorated in Europe by proper regulation such as that possible under Directive 2009/128/EC on sustainable use of pesticides.
Despite the indirect adverse effects that GM herbicide-tolerant systems may have, for some crops, on biodiversity such as butterflies and songbirds, many studies have shown how wise regulation can eliminate such effects.
Furthermore, although it is true that GM crops have failed to deliver much benefit to consumers in Europe, the blame for this is at least partly due to NGOs who have fuelled media hysteria. There is simply no evidence that consumption of any approved GM crop causes any health problems to humans or animals.
The letter asked “why does GM continue to get funding and political support”? The answer is the potential for the very innovation and sustainability of which they speak, exemplified by the GM potato currently under development in Norfolk.
Professor Joe N Perry
University of Greenwich
He, she or yon? Search for a sexless pronoun
Is there not an ideal solution to the quest for a gender-neutral third person singular pronoun (“Let’s talk about sex”, 27 March), on the lines of Sweden’s new “hen”’? We should recycle “yon”.
Not much used now as a synonym for “yonder”, itself now increasingly archaic-sounding, “yon” already exists. It has nothing else to be confused with, can work equally well for “he/she” and “him/her”, with “yons” for the possessive, and has an echo of the Irish dialect “your one”, meaning “that one over there”.
The Swedes are adding to their dictionary a third, gender-neutral, word for the third-person-singular “s/he”. The Finns next door (their languages not related) have just one word for “s/he”. How is that then for confusion?
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