I was glad that I read your business leader and columnists including William Keegan before turning to the article by Theresa May (“Labour voters should look again at my Tory party, here for everyone”, Comment). With uncanny prescience, you had provided all the information needed to protect Labour voters from seduction by her “one nation” claptrap. Anyone still in doubt should study the photograph illustrating her piece: the worker in the roof dormer does not appear to have been provided with the safe place and system of work required by law. Do the Tories look after him as they hack away at the budget of the Health and Safety Executive – or do they care more for the firms that help to bankroll the party that promises them “a bonfire of red tape”?
Speaking in 2015 as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of BBC Radio 4’s World at One, Alan Bennett said what the English excel at, “better than all the rest”, is hypocrisy. There is no better example of hypocrisy than May’s appeal to Labour voters or than in her political persona.
As the result of eight years of unnecessary austerity policy, contemporary UK society is one of food banks, homeless people, welfare and social services that have been either lost or only survive with vastly reduced budgets, crowded and violent prisons and failing police services. The content of her article is nothing but a gloss over these failures.
Dr George Hudson
On Sunday morning, I collected the harvest gifts from the chapel I attend for distribution to food banks. Collections used to be made for Romania but, due to the huge need around here, this year the food was delivered locally. Stories abound of mothers who have not eaten for days in order to feed their children and people opening a tin of beans they are given and eating it on the spot. I then saw May’s article. Does she know she is responsible for the suffering in the country?
Theresa May seems to have no sense of shame. She is responsible for supporting and prolonging austerity and the devastation this has wrought on millions of lives. In her arrogance, she thinks that Labour voters will be persuaded to believe her siren words and succumb to her blandishments.
More immediately, she’s probably hoping that some renegade, anti-Corbyn Labour MPs might vote in support of the Brexit deal she is cooking up, thus saving her bacon and undermining Labour at the same time. But one question needs to be asked: why has the Observer given her space to do this?
Frack and ruin
Why is it so difficult for the Observer to make up its mind about fracking (“Fracking fissures obscure the need to embrace green technologies”, leader)? Shale gas is a climate-changing fossil fuel, yet you claim the environmental impact of fracking is “unproved”.
It is true that gas produces less carbon dioxide per unit of energy than coal, but this is offset by the rapid rise in atmospheric methane largely attributable to increased gas production globally and the cavalier attitude to fracking in North America.
The second problem is timing. It has taken seven years for Cuadrilla to resume drilling and it will probably take another 10 to 15 before gas is being produced in commercial quantities and even that will depend on government support. So shale gas will come on stream at the same time as the UK is scheduled to decarbonise its electricity supply; in other words it will be displacing renewables, not replacing coal.
Fracking is being foisted on local communities by a business-friendly, environmentally illiterate government.
Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Chair, Help Rescue the Planet
The problem with marriage and civil partnerships is that it is a lifetime contract (“There’s love, you’ll say, but is there any real point in getting married these days?”, Comment). Given changes in life expectancy, moral values, cultural expectations and the like, marriage should be a renewable contract of, say, seven years. Then couples who have grown together can stay together, while those who have grown apart can go their separate ways without blame or guilt.
Stick to what you know, Bob
Bob Geldof and the usual suspects have issued a vague, unfocused “rallying cry” to the prime minister in order to protect their various vested interests (“‘Voice of British music will be silenced in a self-built cultural jail’”, News). Had the offending open letter dealt with matters such as the crisis in British musical education or the loss of roots music venues due to gentrification, I would have been inclined to take it more seriously.
The pound goes up, the pound goes down. Governments and hairstyles come and go. None of which entitles Geldof to speak either for those of us toiling in the fields of British music or the “people of Europe”.
Lewes, East Sussex
Let a woman speak
On 28 September, Leeds city council cancelled a room booking by Women’s Place UK, which was planning a meeting that night to discuss government proposals to change the Gender Recognition Act.
When the consultation on changing the GRA was launched by the minister for women and equalities, Penny Mordaunt, she said: “We particularly want to hear from women’s groups who have expressed concerns about the implications of our proposals.” However, the action by the council is only the latest in a series of attempts to halt discussion among women about GRA reform. Harassment of those organising, speaking at or even attending meetings is now routine; one woman had the details of her children’s school posted online with a view to intimidating her into desisting.
Earlier this year the Mercure hotel in Cardiff and Millwall football club were successfully pressured to cancel bookings made by women’s groups to hold panel discussions about proposed changes to the law. In Bristol a meeting was picketed by masked activists blocking attendees’ entrance in an attempt to prevent it going ahead.
In September 2017, a 60-year-old woman was violently assaulted when she was part of a group gathered at Hyde Park Corner waiting to be directed to the venue of a meeting to discuss the GRA.
Professional intimidation and attempted ostracising of, in particular, female academics is also rife. In September this year the Sunday Times revealed an orchestrated campaign, coordinated by a lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, to report academics who had questioned some aspects of transgender ideology to their institutions for “hate crime”.
On International Women’s Day, a trade unionist was hounded off a picket line by activists because she had attended a meeting. Girlguiding has removed two guide leaders from their posts for questioning policies that anticipate changes to the GRA.
We believe the right to discuss proposed changes to the law is fundamental in a democratic society. Public authorities, academic institutions, unions and NGOs should be facilitating discussions and protecting the rights of people to take part in them without harassment or intimidation. We find it troubling that institutions have not condemned these actions and in some cases have expressed support for them.
Marina Strinkovsky, feminist organiser; Beatrix Campbell; Graham Linehan, writer; James Dreyfus; Pragna Patel, Southall Black Sisters; Abigail Rowland, retired head of faculty (English); Professor Adam Swift, UCL; Alice Bondi, psychotherapist; Dr Amanda Maclean; Amina Lone, secularist and women’s campaigner; Anoma Jacobs, N Surrey Green party; Councillor Amy Brooks; Ann Day, musician; Ann McTaggart; Ann Sinnott, former Labour councillor and author; Professor Ann Stewart, University of Warwick; Anna Bluman; Annabella Ashby; Anne Morch, social worker; Annie Gwillym Walker; Annie Thomas; Andy Healey, play worker; Angela Stewart-Park; Anya Palmer, barrister; Ashlee Kelly (Rose of Dawn), social commentator; Betsy Stanko, OBE, emeritus professor; Bronwen Davies, Labour party member; Caroline Spry, TV producer; Dr Catherine Butler, Bath Spa University; Catherine Muller, business adviser; Cathy Devine, former senior lecturer, University of Cumbria; Celia Wangler; Ceri Tegwyn; Ceri Williams; Charlotte Ayres, student; Chetan Bhatt, LSE; Chris Holt; Claire Graham, intersex advocate; Clare B Dimyon MBE (L-GBT), educator and broadcaster; Clare Davies, PhD student; Clare Davies, PhD student; Dale Rapley; Darren Johnson; Dawn Furness, opera singer and film-maker; Debbie Hayton, teacher and transgender activist; Professor Deborah Cameron; Dr Deborah Dean, University of Warwick; Dr Diane Brewster; Diane Jones , teacher, Labour party member;
Donna Stevenson, school librarian; Elizabeth Mansfield, North Surrey Green party; Emma Aynsley; Emma Flynn; Eva Poen, University of Exeter; Dr Fiona English, academic author, former branch chair (Labour) Tottenham Green; Fiona Montgomery; Fionne Orlander, transperson; Frances Barber, actor; Frankie Rickford; Freda Davis, poet, artist, feminist;
Gemma Aitchinson, Yes Matters; Georgia Testa, University of Leeds; Harriet Wistrich, lawyer; Hazel Pegg; Hazel Turner-Lyons; Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans; Helen Gibson, former Labour councillor; Helen Jackson; Helen Mary Jones AM, National Assembly for Wales; Dr Helen Mott; Helen Raynor; Helen Saxby, writer and campaigner; Helen Steel; Helen Watts, former leader, Girlguiding UK; Helena Coates; Hilary Adams; Holly Sutherland; Ivy Cameron; Jack Appleby, web developer; Jacquie Hughes; Dr James Harrison, University of Warwick; Jane Galloway, autism parent advocate; Dr Jane Clare Jones, writer and philosopher; Jalna Hamner; Janet Veitch OBE; Jayne Egerton, radio producer; Jean Bartrum; Jeni Harvey, writer; Jenny Randles, author and broadcaster; Jessica Goldfinch
Jill Mills, Green party member, retired nurse; Jill Nichols, film-maker; Joan Smith, journalist and human rights activist; Joan Scanlon; Jonathan Best, former director, Queer Up North international festival; Josephine Bartosch, Critical Sisters; Judith Green, co-founder, Women’s Place UK; Judith Jones; Judy Maciejowska; Julian Norman, barrister; Julia Pascal, playwright, director; Dr Julian Vigo, writer and anthropologist; Julie Armstrong, Gateshead CLP; Julie Bindel; Justine Potter, producer; Karen Ingala Smith, CEO, nia; Katheen Stock, University of Sussex; Kay Green; Kim Thomas; Councillor Kindy Sandhu; Kiri Tunks, co-founder, Women’s Place UK; Kristina Harrison, trans campaigner; Kym Barlow; Laura McGrath
Leonora Christina; Lin Harwood, lecturer; Linda Oubridge; Lisa-Marie Taylor, CEO, FiLiA; Professor Liz Kelly; Lolly Viv Willowes; Lorraine Roberts; Lorenzo Obi Abadinas, Barnet Green party; Louise Evan Wong; Councillor Louise Paine; Louise Somerville, Women’s Voices Matter; Lucy Masoud, firefighter and FBU London regional official; Lynn Alderson, Totnes CLP; Councillor Lynne Caffrey, Gateshead; Maggie Saxon, arts manager; Maire Smith; Marina Strinkovsky, feminist organiser; Marion Gow; Councillor Mary McGarry; Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, director, Women’s Budget Group; Marta Garcia de la Vega; Maureen O’Hara, Coventry University; Michael Biggs, University of Oxford; Professor Michele Moore, Patient Safety Academy, Oxford University; Mike Shon, ex-mayor of Stafford; Miranda Yardley, transsexual rights activist; Dr Miroslav Imbrisevic, philosopher; Nick Rogers; Dr Nicola Williams, Fair Play 4 Women; Pam Isherwood, photographer, former lecturer; Dr Patrick Turner, Bath Spa University; Paula Dauncey; Peter J Hughes, N Surrey Green party; Phil Rose; Phillipa Harvey; Pilgrim Tucker, academic researcher and community campaigner; Professor Rosemary Auchmuty, School of Law, University of Reading; Professor Selina Todd, University of Oxford; Professor Victoria Rimell; Rahila Gupta, Southall Black Sisters; Raquel Rosario Sánchez, feminist writer and campaigner; Rebecca Gill, consultant; Rebecca Lush, environmental campaigner; Richard Byng, University of Plymouth; Rosa Freedman, law professor, University of Reading; Rosey Bennett, councillor; Rupert Jackson; Ruth Conlock, social worker; Ruth Serwotka, co-founder, Women’s Place UK; SJ Atherton, writer; Samira Abdi, accountant; Sarah Jay, consultant; Sarah Tanburn, writer; Shahida Chudhry; Sheila Jeffreys, University of Melbourne; Sian Sullivan; Sioned-Mair Richards; Solange Hughes, N Surrey Green party; Dr Sophie Allen, Keele University; Stephanie Davies-Arai, Transgender Trend; Steve Trafford, writer, N Surrey Green party; Sue Parrish, Sphinx Theatre; Susan Matthews, Roehampton University; Tania Glynn; Tom Farr, human rights researcher; Tony Green, freelance writer and tutor; Tracey Smith; Veronica Quilligan, actor; Wendy Sarah Davis, Rooms of our Own; Wendy Savage, MBBch FRCO; Wendy Wheeler, professor emeritus, science and culture studies
Wrong again, Dr Johnson
Martin Amis may well have said “nothing odd works long” but if he did he pinched it from Dr Johnson (Johanna Thomas-Corr’s review of Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami, New Review). Which would have been an odd thing to do, since Johnson turned out (as so often) to be completely wrong. According to Boswell, he said: “Nothing odd will do long. Tristram Shandy did not last.” The various editions of Tristram Shandy in my local bookshop comfortably outnumber those of Boswell’s Life of Johnson.