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Letters «TheGuardian»

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Sat, 16 Feb 2019 09:23:38 GMT
Letters | The Guardian
Latest Letters news, comment and analysis from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice [ + ]
Fri, 15 Feb 2019 16:32:20 GMT
The ‘war on drugs’ is causing great damage | Letters
Readers discuss whether the ‘war’ is the right way to combat the violence fuelled by the drugs trade

You recently set out in detail the catastrophic consequences of the current “war on drugs” (Editorial, 14 February), from tens of thousands of civilian deaths in Mexico to the mass incarceration of young black men in the US, and the corruption of politicians by the cartels. In doing so, you rightly assert the need to protect innocent people and minimise any harm associated with drug use and drugs laws. Nevertheless, you also conclude that the war must continue to be waged.

Your justification rests on two extraordinary claims. First, that anything short of, or different from, victory on the current terms of the conflict amounts to “surrender”. This dismissal of political alternatives sits oddly in a newspaper with a noble tradition of opposing mass violence in pursuit of unwinnable political ends.

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Fri, 15 Feb 2019 16:31:52 GMT
An honest look at ‘hero’ Churchill | Letters
John Edgar says Brexit is bringing the UK’s past into focus, Neil Burgess thinks the shadow chancellor fell for a cheap trick, Terry Philpot settles a dispute and David M Smith reveals why his miner grandfather never forgave the former PM

Post-1945 Germany set about a process called Bewältigung der Vergangenheit, overcoming its history, coming to terms with its past – honestly and openly. The latest salvos against Churchill are exactly that (Shadow chancellor: Churchill labelled ‘villain’, 14 February). The Brexit issue has forced many to look at the assumptions, myths and claims about the UK and its past. The recalling of the Dunkirk spirit and other glib half-truths are bringing this reassessment of the past into focus and discussion.

As the European continent gazes in wonder at the antics in the English Commons and its historical procedures carried over into the UK post-1707, it is time for an honest reappraisal of “God, who made thee mighty”.
John Edgar
Kilmaurs, Ayrshire

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Fri, 15 Feb 2019 16:31:26 GMT
Sustainability is key to the fisheries bill | Letters
If the government’s plans are implemented, our marine environment will be less protected after Brexit than it is now, say signatories including Sandy Luk of the Marine Conservation Society

In a few weeks the government’s fisheries bill will return to the House of Commons. The environment secretary, Michael Gove, has claimed that his plans enable the UK to “take back control” of its waters and establish a worldwide “gold standard” for sustainable fisheries. It is a crucial part of the government’s pledge to enhance protections for the environment and deliver on its promise of a green Brexit. Yet, if the government’s current plans are implemented, our marine environment will be less protected after Brexit than it is now.

First, the bill does nothing to prevent fishing limits being set above scientific recommendations, meaning stocks will be susceptible to short-term political decisions and destructive overfishing. Second, the bill sets out admirable sustainability objectives, but it does not put any legal requirements on public authorities to achieve them. Ministers understand that the sustainability of our fish stocks is vital to the health of the marine environment and to the coastal communities that depend on them. It is in everyone’s interest for them to live up to their promises, and put in place the necessary legal provisions that will deliver sustainable fishing in this landmark bill.
Sandy Luk Chief executive, Marine Conservation Society
Debbie Tripley Director of environmental policy and advocacy, WWF
James Thornton Chief executive, ClientEarth
Stephanie Hilborne Chief executive, The Wildlife Trusts
Mike Clarke Chief executive, RSPB
John Sauven Executive director, Greenpeace UK
Pascale Moehrle Executive director, Oceana
David Bunt Chief executive, Institute of Fisheries Management

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Fri, 15 Feb 2019 16:31:04 GMT
UK public pays high price for private schools | Letter
The private school system allows the wealthiest to benefit at the expense of the majority, says Michael Pyke

It is ridiculously inappropriate to compare “luxury homes, cars, exotic holidays” with the fees for private schools (Letters, 12 February). Good education is not a luxury but an essential provision that needs to be equally available to all children if we are ever to have a properly functioning society. Parents are not to be blamed for seeking the best for their children, but the private school system encourages the wealthiest to do this at the expense of the great majority. For example, 14% of the teaching force, trained mainly at public expense, is employed in schools that teach 6.5% of the nation’s children.

Second, the fact that private schools meet the criteria required for charitable status is merely a reminder that these criteria are inadequate. The charitable status enjoyed by private schools represents a subsidy to the wealthiest from the majority of taxpayers, whose own schools are poorly resourced.

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Fri, 15 Feb 2019 16:30:41 GMT
Journalists are the ‘watchdogs of justice’ | Letter
Margaret Parker is reassured to hear the former lord chief justice acknowledge that the loss of newspapers ‘is a threat to the justice system’

I was the first female journalist to be employed in the high court in 1967 with the Press Association law service, which had 35 men on staff. The late Lord Denning, master of the rolls, called us: “The watchdogs of English justice.” It’s reassuring to hear the former lord chief justice, Igor Judge, comment that the loss of newspapers “is a threat to the justice system … and justice needs to be seen to be done and reported accurately and impartially” (Report, 12 February). Last time I popped into the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand there were only five journalists covering over 50 courts that sit there daily. There used to be a very active high court journalists’ association in my day, formed over 100 years ago, but it is sadly now defunct.
Margaret Parker (nee Rowe)
Millbrook, Cornwall

• Join the debate – email

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Fri, 15 Feb 2019 16:30:10 GMT
Call for Zimbabwe to halt repression | Letter
Violence against protesters and human rights abuses by government condemned

We are deeply concerned about grave human rights violations in Zimbabwe and condemn the violent repression of peaceful protesters, including the leaders and members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, who called for a peaceful three-day strike in mid-January. Since then, security forces have used live ammunition against civilians, killing at least 12 people and wounding 78 others. Civil society activists and opposition politicians have been arbitrarily arrested and detained. Our colleagues in Zimbabwean human rights groups report that police and men in military uniform are conducting door-to-door raids in urban areas, during which rapes and beatings have occurred.

On coming to power in November 2017, President Mnangagwa spoke of a “new and unfolding democracy” in Zimbabwe. Yet all forms of democratic governance must allow people to exercise their human rights. No citizen should be killed, harmed or harassed for peaceful dissent, and all individuals who have been arbitrarily detained should be released immediately. If the government of Zimbabwe is truly committed to holding to account those who have committed abuses, it will formally invite the African Union or the UN to conduct an independent investigation. It is unacceptable for the UK government to continue to entertain the government of Zimbabwe’s request for a review of its relationship with the international community while civilians continue to be assaulted and killed and an independent investigation has not been conducted.

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Fri, 15 Feb 2019 16:29:56 GMT
European Research Group members should test what support they have | Brief letters
ERG | National parks | Women’s self-examination | Giving birth | Scones

If the ERG, that party-within-a-party, had a scrap of integrity, its MPs would resign their seats and fight byelections, if necessary as independents (Report, 15 February). That would show the real level of support, or lack of it, they actually have among the public.
Alan Pavelin
Chislehurst, Kent

• Good suggestions about how to get there but no mention of which national parks are accessible for wheelchair users (Travel, 9 February). Perhaps you could include wheelchair-friendly weekends sometime.
Jocelyne Pierce
Loughborough, Leicestershire

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Thu, 14 Feb 2019 18:12:14 GMT
Study English, and learn the ways of the world | Letters
Readers discuss the benfits that can be gained from studying the arts

How I agree with Susanna Rustin (Why study English? We’re poorer in every sense without it, 11 February)! A retired teacher, I hear the arguments for studying Stem subjects frequently put forward as self-explanatory. But are science graduates necessarily more employable than someone who has spent her degree years reading widely, analysing language, developing sound aesthetic judgment, defending her opinions in seminars, and learning how to express them in lucid, cogent and elegant prose in weekly essays?

Many ex-pupils I hear about who have arts degrees are successful in business, academia, the law, novel writing, and the arts. One is even running a department in the Guardian.

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Thu, 14 Feb 2019 18:11:58 GMT
The importance of midwifery units | Letter
Women’s choice is not the primary factor in declining numbers of midwife-run centres, write 16 experts in midwifery

Despite robust evidence that freestanding midwifery units (birth centres) provide high-quality care, the number of women able to use them is constantly undermined. Women’s choice is not the primary factor in declining numbers (Closure of midwife-run centres ‘denying women birth options’, 11 February).

First, an increasingly medicalised approach to pregnancy care means that fewer women are able to use freestanding midwifery units. Second, evidence shows that simply being in an obstetric setting leads to an increase in interventions, such as epidurals, forceps and caesarean births. Thus, fewer women are eligible – or confident – to plan for a home birth or birth centre next time. Third, birth-centre midwives are regularly reassigned to work in over-stretched obstetric units (at least partly due to the increasing medicalisation) meaning that birth centres are often closed “temporarily”, further reducing access to them. This cycle chips away at the numbers, and the women who are most likely to benefit from a midwifery unit instead find themselves in an obstetric unit, with an increased risk of intervention without clinical benefit. NHS underfunding sets one part of the system against another when both are underresourced.

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Thu, 14 Feb 2019 18:11:44 GMT
Egyptians, rather than the west, must tackle Sisi | Letter
The call for the west to address the autocracy of President Sisi’s government is problematic, says Youssef Farrag

I cannot agree more with Amr Darrag’s opinion on the failure of the Egyptian government – shown in extravagant projects that were meant to lift President Sisi’s status rather than serve the population and in the establishment of an autocratic regime that has seen an abundance of human rights violations (If Sisi’s brutality in Egypt continues, the results could be dire for Europe, 11 February). And it is likely, in light of the proposals for a constitutional amendment, that Sisi will be in office until 2034.

However, the call for the west to address the autocracy of Sisi’s government is problematic. Democracy is established and sustained by collective action, and can only thrive when people are able to be force themselves into the conversation and the decision-making process. Thus, democracy can be imagined differently in different countries and can often be used to reject rather than affirm western values.

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Thu, 14 Feb 2019 18:11:29 GMT
It’s wrong to deport Zimbabweans who sought refuge in Britain | Letter
The home secretary must abandon this government’s obsession with immigration numbers, says former UK ambassador Brian Donnelly

I was British high commissioner, later ambassador, to Zimbabwe from 2001 to 2004 when the number of Zimbabweans seeking refuge in Britain reached a peak (Home Office under fire for sending asylum seekers back to Zimbabwe, 13 February). I know why these people left.

Many were fleeing from political persecution. Some were trying to escape a collapsing economy. But now, more than 10 years later, surely the principal consideration should be that, whatever their original motivation, the overwhelming majority of the Zimbabweans who came to Britain have settled peacefully and contributed to the social and economic life of this country. What possible harm does it do if they are allowed to stay?

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Thu, 14 Feb 2019 18:11:15 GMT
Prevent and political judgments by police | Letter from Jenny Jones
Parliament, rather than the police, should define who is and is not a domestic extremist, says Green party peer Jenny Jones

As one of the peers who pushed the government into holding a review of Prevent can I urge everyone to contribute to changing this counterproductive approach to combating terrorism (Police challenge Prevent critics to ‘stand up and be counted’, 5 February). The safeguarding of vulnerable people and vulnerable communities will only work if we have the cooperation of those communities and Prevent is simply not trusted by many whom the authorities need to work with them. Prevent has become discredited because it has thrown the net so wide that it includes many thousands who have committed no serious crimes, but are seen by the police as subversives and domestic extremists.

As one of several Green politicians who was on the domestic extremism database, I am a critic of Prevent for the same reasons as I criticise the spycops who invaded the lives of women activists and spied on justice campaigners like the parents of Stephen Lawrence. Prevent is an extension of political policing and will remain so until parliament, rather than the police themselves, defines who is and is not a domestic extremist. We need a public debate on whether we want the police making political judgments about what people might think, or whether we want them to do their job based upon actual crimes being committed.
Jenny Jones
Green party, House of Lords

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Thu, 14 Feb 2019 18:10:56 GMT
Christopher Chope was wrong to object to FGM bill | Letter
It is indefensible that courts have lesser powers to protect girls at risk of FGM than those at risk of forced marriage, writes barrister David Maddison

In response to Dr Brenda Kelly’s letter (13 February) regarding her experience of courts making an interim supervision order, this could only be made if a local authority was already involved with the litigation. This misses the point of the bill that Sir Christopher Chope objected to.

I proposed this bill to Lord Berkeley because of an occasion in court where the police sought a female genital mutilation protection order. The local authority were not involved but the judge wanted to engage their protective powers for the girl.

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Thu, 14 Feb 2019 18:09:48 GMT
Gavin Williams MP – ideal for Crackerjack | Brief letters
Children’s TV | Energy | Football | Toilet seats | Peak District

How come no mention of the three performers with by far the greatest number of appearances (Crackerjack back after 35 years as BBC takes on Netflix, 12 February)? Peter Glaze (309), Jillian Comber (188) and Leslie Crowther (159). They were the team when I went to the show with my school in the early 60s. Might Gavin Williamson MP be one of the new presenters? He seems ideal to “usher in a new era of … whizzbang audience antics” and well suited to CBBC.
Tim Davies
Batheaston, Somerset

• Boiling more water than needed in the kettle is bad enough (Are your cuppas costing more than you thought?, 9 February), but I am more despondent about people who rinse crockery items with running hot water before placing them in the dishwasher. It washes dishes. The clue is in the name.
Dr John Birtill
Guisborough, North Yorkshire

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Wed, 28 Jan 2015 12:09:16 GMT
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