Distracted by the royal wedding, we’ve missed a Tory power grab

Theresa May has appointed 13 more Conservative peers: Getty

It will have passed the vast majority of people by, and dare I say it there was no coincidence in terms of its timing on the eve of the royal wedding, but last Friday the Queen approved the nomination of 13 new peers, including the creation of nine Conservative peers and at least one for the Democratic Unionist Party, in addition to three Labour appointments.

This is clearly an attempt by the prime minister to improve her position in the House of Lords, which has voted 15 times against her government over Brexit, a desperate attempt by an embattled May to enlist people to help her in the unelected upper house.

Ironically, a report by a House of Lords committee last year recommended the Lords should be reduced in size by a quarter, which was backed by May. In February, the prime minister said she wanted to end the “automatic entitlement” to a peerage for holders of high office in an attempt to reduce numbers in the upper house to 600. The addition of three Labour peers sadly legitimises the actions of the Tories.

The former DUP MP William McCrea is expected to be ennobled. While one notes major concerns over the future fate of the Irish border, the elevation of McCrea seems rather peculiar as in the 1980s he wanted the British government to launch airstrikes on the republic. McCrea also called for bombing raids on republican strongholds in the North, according to official papers. Nothing can exemplify more the desperate grab for power by a regime in total turmoil than these appointments, which represent an absolute affront to democracy.

Alex Orr

The No campaign’s rhetoric is misleading and harmful

I wish the No canvassers in the Ireland abortion referendum would use the words “abortion on request” instead of “abortion on demand”. Demand sounds like a pregnant woman wanting to terminate her pregnancy for personal reasons (before 12 weeks) on the same level as a toddler having a tantrum. “I demand an abortion! Now!”

If you replace “demand” with “request” it suddenly invokes a kinder mood. One of gracefully accepting reality.

I urge readers to download the proposed legislation (General Scheme of a Bill to Regulate Termination of Pregnancy), read it for themselves and decide. This legislation makes it clear that this referendum is not about just “hard cases” – it is about all abortions being a complex and difficult choice for women to make. I am confident that, for those who wish to see abortion on request – up to 12 weeks – in Ireland, we will see a Yes vote on Friday.

Alison Hackett
Dun Laoghaire, Ireland

Timetables for timetables

It was with great surprise that I found myself at Manchester Piccadilly train station on Meltdown Monday listening to an announcer blaming a lack of drivers for the delays and cancellations on the network on the first workday since the new train schedule was implemented.

I find myself wondering if there may have been some benefit in trying to ensure that they had enough drivers and trains by first performing a critical path analysis on a document that listed all of the scheduled trains, their routes and their departure/arrival times in a tabular form. This would have aided the identification of any potential shortfall in resources allowing remedial action to be put in place prior to implementation of this new schedule.

This document could even be called “a timetable”.

Alan Gregory

An address to Boris Johnson

Dear foreign secretary,

During your recent visit to Argentina, I read with interest your letter in the newspaper La Nacion about values the country shares with the UK. I have to say that when it comes to immigration, the two countries could not be further apart. As someone married to someone from that country, and who has permanent residency status in Argentina, I can tell you how different things are.

Firstly, I obtained permanent residency in a matter of weeks despite never having lived in the country before. Argentina did not set a threshold for how much I needed to earn before I could be granted residency. There was no presumption that I was there to sponge off the state.

Contrast that with my wife who has been in the UK for 20 out of the past 23 years and has to pass through a whole series of hoops to stay in the country (even though she also has an Italian passport) once we leave the EU.

Argentina has not had a Windrush equivalent. It welcomes people from overseas as it realises that it needs skills and talents. It does not have go home vans, nor does it ask schools and public hospitals or landlords to act as immigration officers.

It also does not have a foreign secretary who makes jokes about the war dead, insults the leaders of neighbouring countries or questions the heritage of President Obama.

Chris Key
Address supplied

American sanctions are a barrier to Venezuela’s economic recovery

Venezuela’s presidential elections on 20 May saw Nicolas Maduro re-elected. With 92.6 percent of the votes counted, Maduro had 5.8 million votes (nearly 68 per cent), with his closest rival, former governor Henri Falcon getting 1.8 million votes. Two other candidates also competed. So much for UK media reports that all opposition parties “boycotted” the elections.

The election was observed by 150 international observers who stressed the free and fair nature of the vote, including former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, who said: “No one can question the Venezuelan elections ... in the world there is no election as monitored as Venezuelan elections.” Despite pressure from the US Trump administration not to do so, international leaders have started to recognise the results and all governments should follow suit including the UK.

Following his victory, President Maduro called for a permanent dialogue process and former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who monitored the election, has offered to mediate dialogue between Venezuela’s government and opposition. Governments internationally should do all they can to facilitate and support such a process. It is to be hoped that dialogue prevails. Any attempt to overturn constitutional mandates, including that of the democratically re-elected president, by violence must be opposed.

However, the Trump administration does not support dialogue. Instead, it is continuing to seek “regime change” by means including harsh sanctions aimed at starving the country of financing, military threats and invoking the possibility of a coup. These will only exacerbate the country’s difficulties and divisions, not facilitate dialogue.

Tony Burke
Chair, Venezuela Solidarity Campaign UK

Time to introduce vision tests for drivers?

Telling someone that they may no longer drive is a very difficult conversation to have. If they live in a rural area they may then have extreme difficulty in going about their daily lives without the use of a car.

Currently it is the duty of the driver to notify the DVLA if they are unable to meet the visual requirements of their driving licence. However the professional can break confidentiality and notify the DVLA if the patient is refusing to do so themselves, or if it becomes apparent that they are continuing to drive.

A statutory requirement on health professionals to notify the DVLA of anyone visually unfit to drive will actually help, by taking any sense of unfairness out of the conversation. It will then not be the doctor or optometrist being “hard” but simply stating that the law requires this, and the professional has no choice in the matter.

I would actually go further. Just as we have MOTs for cars, I think we should have compulsory visual checks for all drivers every two years, with a requirement to carry a certificate of visual fitness with the driving licence. And of course a requirement that any spectacles prescribed for driving must be worn when doing so, or the driver will be deemed to be driving against medical advice.

Audrey Boucher, retired GP