Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's frightening experience with the UK Border Agency (12 April) reflects my own fears about the competence of the UKBA.
I am a British spouse of a non-EU national. When we return to the UK from conferences abroad the manner of the UKBA officials is intimidating and discourteous toward non-EU travellers, in contrast to the brisk professional courtesy of US border officials when we go there.
My conclusion is that the UKBA do not have the same clarity of procedure and efficiency of record-keeping as their American counterparts. They simply don't have the right background information to hand; hence their strategy is to hope that acting like night-club bouncers will scare illegal entrants into revealing themselves. This is, of course, absurd.
As a British citizen I am ashamed every time I see this, which is the result of consistent political incompetence over immigration. The more that immigration policy is supplemented by ill-conceived ad hoc rulings, the more difficult it is for the UKBA to enforce its own rules, and the more likely its officials to resort to symbolic rather than administrative enforcement.
Just as depressing is the fact that the UKBA do not have the information to distinguish between unqualified non-English speaking immigrants and highly qualified ones. UK universities rely heavily not only on non-EU students' fees, but on non-EU academics to teach them. There are not enough UK citizens to pursue academic careers in many demanded subjects.
The brutalism and incompetence of current immigration policy is manifest in the atmosphere of fear which surrounds the non-EU channel at UK borders.
Now vote with your conscience
Like many who watched the debate between the party leaders, I live in a constituency where the MP has always come from one of the two main parties. It has usually been a case of voting for the least awful alternative, and not actually for the party with policies we feel would serve the country best.
This highlights the reason why so many have become disillusioned with our form of democracy. The television debate was a welcome first step forward to engaging the viewer.
I believe the time has now come for us all to vote for the party and candidate we feel offers the best opportunity for the country to move forward, particularly if we favour a candidate not from the two main parties. Whatever the final election results are, in terms of seats gained, we should be looking at the number of individual votes polled by all parties across the country, and if the results prove to be glaringly unequal in terms of seats gained to votes cast, then the case for changing our voting system will be so manifestly justified that if nothing is done a people's protest for democracy should take to the streets.
If we vote with our conscience, ignoring the "your vote is a wasted vote" comments from the two major parties, then perhaps we will get the democratic system we deserve.
I've just been watching the electoral debate. I understand that there is a £170bn hole in the budget.
Cameron is suggesting efficiency improvements which would save "millions of pounds". Brown is worried about Cameron's suggestions on National Insurance, and says that his way of doing things would make a difference of £6bn. Clegg wants to scrap Trident, which would save £100bn.
I'm voting Lib Dem. The two larger parties apparently believe that voters can't add.
A leader of a political party needs two core qualities. First, an ability to put across substantive policy issues. Second, an engaging personality. On the evidence of Thursday evening's debate, Gordon Brown has the first, David Cameron the second, but only Nick Clegg has both.
For the first time television viewers have had the opportunity to listen to Nick Clegg uninterrupted by the caterwauling of hundreds of thugs determined to prevent him being heard in the House of Commons.
This was because the moderator of the debate, Alastair Stewart, firmly applied the rules available to him. John Bercow and his predecessor as Speaker have proved themselves incapable of achieving the same result. Mr Stewart would get my vote to take over as Speaker.
What kind of a democracy refuses to let the audience clap or respond to speakers in a televised debate? Is this the kind of democracy the Government seems so keen to export to other countries?
Woodford Green, Essex
With the leaders of the major parties debating on television we have moved one step nearer to American-style politics. There have already been calls for elected police chiefs and televising criminal court proceedings. What's next?
Newhaven, east Sussex
Watched the Nick Clegg Show. He was on the kind of form to be expected from a man with nothing to lose. The other two seemed a tad over-rehearsed. Gordon wobbled his jowls, muttered deeply about the state of the accounts and mistimed the Ashcroft shot; Dave dished out the usual snake oil for the oiks.
Missed the end because I was asleep.
St Breward, Cornwall
Poland's story is heard at last
I support Marina Donald in accolades she gives The Independent for your splendid coverage of the latest Polish tragedy and the history that lies behind it (letters, 13 April). I would like to express my deeper gratitude to Marina.
For decades the sorrows Poles have endured were suppressed, for the Polish version of the Second World War and post-war history under Stalin's brutal regime were never properly acknowledged. Now Marina reminds us that Poland's story is being heard and will be respected. Stalin was no more a hero than was Hitler. Russia's denial of Katyn for so many decades left Poles bruised and rightly suspicious. Lech Kaczynski's courage and insistence on truth contributed greatly to the acknowledgement by the Russians that at Katyn Stalin did indeed do Poland wrong.
Lyn Atterbury's negative comments and aspersions about President Kaczynski are ill-conceived. She has confused a demand for truth and restoration of justice to victims of Katyn with "sour feelings". She too quickly accepts a view of events that President Kaczynski may have been responsible for the crash. We know not what caused the crash and we may never know. Let President Kaczynski and those who died with him rest in peace and may his role in the history of Poland be respected.
Professor Barbara Pierscionek
Coleraine, Co Londonderry
Hypocritical Tory attack over NI
The Conservative attack on the proposed increase in employers' National Insurance contributions is hypocritical.
This is not a tax on jobs but on wages. The record shows no correlation between unemployment and NI rises. In the 20 years from 1979, unemployment varied between 12 per cent and 5 per cent, while NI contributions remained broadly stable. From 1999 to 2004, employers' NI charges doubled from 4 per cent to 8 per cent while unemployment fell. Since 2004, NI has remained flat while unemployment has risen.
The eagerness of captains of industry to side with the Conservatives' attack is a self-serving attempt to protect their bottom lines.
Cameron and Osborne have been banging on for a year about a serious approach to cutting the deficit. Yet they want to give a tax break to their fat-cat friends in banking, industry and commerce, while promising severe cuts in public expenditure that will throw thousands out of work.
Petts Wood, Kent
New threat to the world's climate?
The spread of ash from the eruption of the Icelandic volcano should remind us that "global cooling" resulting from the effects of such a phenomenon has had devastating effects upon the world's ability to feed itself on a number of occasions.
The possibility of a more devastating eruption filtering substantial amounts of the sun's heat could mean that we will be desperate to increase the amount of greenhouse gases in order to keep as much as possible of that heat in the atmosphere.
I trust the scientists have a "plan B" for such an eventuality. Or perhaps Gaia is on the case already.
How difficult it is to spell
The link between spelling systems and literacy must be more complex than some of your correspondents suggest.
For example, Japanese has three writing systems (syllabic hiragana, syllabic katakana, Chinese kanji characters), which seems rather ambitious, even if the syllabic spellings are essentially phonetic. Yet according to the CIA World Fact Book, Japan has a literacy rate of 99 per cent, defined as the number of people "aged 15 and over who can read and write".
The Fact Book also shows the UK literacy rate as 99 per cent, but this is defined less ambitiously as the number of people "aged 15 and over who have completed five or more years of schooling". Perhaps our failure is simply one of ambition rather than orthography.
Democracy in Balochistan
With reference to Peter Tatchell's article "The People of Balochistan have a right to self-determination" (Podium, 14 April). Pakistan came into being through a democratic exercise whereby the people voted in favour of a new country, including in Balochistan, where a shahi jirga, representing all the tribes of Balochistan, voted in favour of Pakistan.
Urdu was introduced as an official language of Balochistan by a respected nationalist leader, Sardar Atta Ullah Mangel, when he was the Chief Minister of Balochistan in the early 1970s. The author should also know that the democratic government of Pakistan has taken far-reaching measures in addressing the grievances of the people of Balochistan.
Syeda Sultana Rizvi
Press Counsellor, Pakistan High Commission,
Any art gallery finding they have fakes among their collections needn't worry ("We bought forgeries, says National Gallery", 16 April). All they have to do is label them "re-imaginings" and the critics will be falling over themselves to praise them. It's a ploy that seems to have worked well in television for at least the last decade.
Doncaster, South Yorkshire
Case for a cull
Giles Bradshaw (letter, 15 April) asserts that foxes need a top predator – fox-hunters – to control them. There was a time when humans would have been preyed upon by wolves, bears, lynx etc, as he says foxes were. Following his logic, would he suggest that we need groups of hunters roaming the city picking off the weak specimens?
Hulme End, Derbyshire
Paying by cheque
While TV licences can no longer be bought at the Post Office (letter, 16 April), people can still pay the licence fee by sending a cheque in the post. In fact, there are many ways to pay for your TV licence: via our website, by direct debit, over the phone or at PayPoint outlets.
TV Licensing, London WC2
Catrina Stewart's interesting piece about the Gaza tunnels (15 April) describes the movement of goods into the besieged territory as smuggling. Gazans depend on these imports and the Hamas administration of the Strip permits them. Access to Gaza by sea, air, and land is denied to Gazans by Israel. So why does the only way in attract the pejorative term "smuggling"?
Brian W Beeley
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Heirs to Marx
Reading a recently published book The Rise and Fall of Communism, by Archie Brown, I came across the following: "Marx and his followers envisaged an eventual withering-away of the state, in the course of which all coercive institutions would somehow disappear and people would administer things for themselves without the need for state authority." This sounds remarkably like what Cameron is proposing with his plans for "the Big Society", with people running the schools, police forces, hospitals and so on.
If David Cameron becomes Prime Minister and I am given the job of running schools, hospitals etc, will I be given a free duck-house for my pond?
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