Letters: A worrying pattern in the Met’s handling of protest marches in London

The South London for Palestine protest marches over the weekend
The South London for Palestine protest marches over the weekend - Guy Smallman/Getty Images

SIR – There appears to be a worrying pattern in the way demonstrations and civic disturbances are being policed, especially by the Met. 

In the first instance there seems to be a hands-off policy: remember the early environmental protests, where officers handed out water and stood chatting with demonstrators as roads were brought to a standstill. Only after public outrage and political pressure did police tactics change. 

This hands-off strategy is now being applied to Free Palestine and anti-Israel demonstrations, where it appears it is easier to control innocent bystanders than tackle potential threats and anti-Semitism.

Graeme Brierley
Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire

SIR – In our free society, we protect the right of everyone to protest publicly and peacefully in our streets. This is a valuable privilege, but every freedom may be abused to harm others.

We all know that the British Government is not responsible for the present conflict between Hamas terrorists and the people of Israel, and it has very little influence on the ongoing war in Gaza. Why then should we have weekly mass protest marches in London, and Palestinian flags flown permanently from lampposts in the streets? The great effort applied by the police to keep the peace, and the enormous cost of such effort, are unfair to the general public. 

However worthy or not the protests may be, I feel that enough is enough, and that the time has surely come to ban further weekly demonstrations to give the police a chance to address other matters.

Jonatan Fogg
Loulé, Algarve, Portugal

SIR – If a group of football hooligans were marching along the road then I’m sure the police would want to prevent a supporter of an opposing team from approaching them (“Police under fire after threat to arrest ‘openly Jewish’ man near pro-Palestinian protest”, report, April 19). 

Bigotry exists on both sides and it should be called out when encountered.

Bob Stebbings
Chorleywood, Hertfordshire

SIR – The Met Police and the Mayor of London need to understand that anybody, of any religion, should be free to walk in central London on a Saturday or at any other time.

Obviously the pro-Hamas marchers think that the holy Shabbat is strictly observed by all Jews, which means that travel by car or the Underground is proscribed, leaving the streets Jew-free every Saturday. In their ignorance of the many different practices and lifestyles of those of us who are secular Jews, they are given free rein to demonstrate on a weekly basis without fear of recrimination.

London is our city and we have the right to be there if that is our wish.

Barbara Solomons 
London NW4

Rayner police probe

SIR – Is it acceptable that a “dozen-strong” police team is investigating Angela Rayner’s property affairs (report, April 20)?

When contacting police about a break-in at a nearby home in Salford last week, we were told that police would not visit the property. Could Ms Rayner please lend us one of her 12?

Sara Dickinson
Tadworth, Surrey

SIR – If it turns out that Angela Rayner has done nothing wrong as she claims, doesn’t the debate over her tax affairs suggest that our current tax system is not fit for purpose and in need of simplification?

Dr Mike Copp
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Boris Johnson’s legacy

SIR – Simon Gordon (Letters, April 19) compares the likely legacies of Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson. 

For all his faults, he argues, Mr Johnson achieved Brexit. To that I would add his major achievement in galvanising international military support for Ukraine. 

This demonstrates his ability to understand and focus on the big issues of our time, to a greater extent than seems to be the case with Rishi Sunak. I am convinced that if Boris were to stand at the forthcoming election he would attract far more support than any other candidate and narrow the gap between the two parties.

Derek Morton
Woodford, Cheshire  

The quest for a bank

SIR – I attended the Unison Retired Members’ Conference in Edinburgh last year. 

One item on the agenda was bank closures (Money, April 21). A delegate came to the rostrum and explained that recently he had visited his branch in Lerwick, Shetlands, to find a notice on the door which read: “This branch is now closed, your nearest branch is Elgin”.

To reach this branch, he had to get to the ferry port early in the morning for the eight-hour ferry crossing to the mainland, then find a bus to Elgin. Upon arrival he was too late to visit the branch as it was early evening. After staying in a hotel overnight he could visit the branch to conduct his business then take a bus back to the ferry. However, by this time the only ferry to Lerwick each day had departed, so another night’s hotel stay was needed. He would then arrive back in Lerwick in the evening. A three-day return journey.

EJ Redfern
Blackburn, Lancashire

Acting disability

SIR – I am fascinated by the debate over whether Richard III should be played only by a disabled actor (Letters, April 18), and wondered what the rules for this casting should be. Could any disabled person play the part? I, for example, am partially sighted, so would that be OK? Should casting for any role be made on a disability-specific basis, or will any disabled person be better able to understand the needs of the role?

I eagerly await clarification.

Steve Cook
Portsmouth, Hampshire

SIR – Reading Sarah Leggat’s letter (April 17), I wonder what advice she would suggest to an actor about to tackle the lead role in Kafka’s Metamorphosis?

Jax Fothergill
Clun, Shropshire

Issuing sick notes

SIR – I agree with Dr Fiona Underhill’s comments (Letters, April 20) that GPs should be relieved of the task of assessing patients for sick notes. 

As a nurse practitioner, I recently saw and assessed a patient who was requesting a sick note as he had a superficial stye on his eyelid. Despite assurances that this was a mild self-limiting condition he insisted that the ailment would impede his ability to undertake his job on his work computer. Reluctantly I issued him with a sick note for one week. He subsequently requested an extension for a further week, which was issued with hesitancy by a colleague. 

On his third request for a sick note for the same condition I challenged him and advised he needed a further face-to-face consultation to reassess the problem. This resulted in a verbal stream of highly offensive invective. I did not waver in my stance resulting in him terminating our call before I could offer him an appointment. He subsequently received a formal warning letter advising him that any further episodes of verbal abuse would not be tolerated and he would be removed as a patient from our list. 

This illustrates the often time-consuming and intimidating episodes that we are exposed to in primary care.

Ancilla Shirley
Nayland, Suffolk

SIR – I applaud the Prime Minister’s  desire to get thousands of the long-term sick back to work. Work is vital for a person’s wellbeing, self-worth and overall health.

My concern is that the jobs they go into must pay enough to sustain a decent standard of living. If people are expected to work hard their employment should provide the remuneration to enable them to play hard and enjoy those benefits that work can bring.

Rebecca Jacobs
Chard, Somerset

East is east

SIR – Christopher Howse (Sacred Mysteries, April 20) will be pleased to learn that medieval London did indeed have an Eastminster, but it was not St Paul’s. 

The Cistercian abbey of St Mary of Graces, which was founded in 1349, was commonly called Eastminster, as it stood outside the City to the east. Its site was just east of the Tower and was subsequently occupied by the Royal Mint. There is virtually no trace surviving, and its existence has been largely forgotten.

Fr Henry Everett
Bromley, Kent

Elgar still surprises, more than a century on

A painting of Elgar on the wall of his birthplace, The Firs at Lower Broadheath
A painting of Elgar on the wall of his birthplace, The Firs at Lower Broadheath - Alamy

SIR – I couldn’t agree more with Ian France (Letters, April 20) on the merits of Elgar and his music.

I was recently fortunate to sing with Bart’s Choir at the Royal Festival Hall Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius (1900). The music is sublime, as are the words by St John Henry Newman.

A work that surprises me every time I hear it.

Mary Moore
London E2

SIR – Although associated with and possibly inspired by the beauty of the Malvern Hills, Edward Elgar was born in the village of Lower Broadheath near Worcester, where there is now a museum dedicated to him.

He is buried at St Wulstan’s Catholic Church which is on the Hills at Little Malvern.

Kate Forrester
Malvern, Worcestershire

This futile law will not deter underage smokers 

SIR – I am surprised that so many people still buy cigarettes in this country (report, April 21) considering the exorbitant cost at nearly £16 per packet, of which about £8 is in tax paid to the Government. 

Several smokers I know now buy their cigarettes in bulk from abroad as the cost is about a third of those bought in the UK, and thus no tax goes to the Government. Future generations will increasingly do this. This projected ban seems futile and financially counter-productive. In my opinion it is merely a virtue-signalling exercise by a Government bereft of any ability to enact legislation on more important issues. 

“Underage” smokers will still be able to obtain cigarettes bought by someone old enough to do so. 
What other bans on perceived unhealthy habits will we be lumbered with? 

Mark Stephens
Hungerford, Berkshire

SIR – I am opposed to this new law for the simple reason that it will prove to be unworkable. I can foresee a situation whereby in a house with several adults, some will be permitted to smoke whereas it will be illegal for others to do so. This is ridiculous.

My father started smoking at the age of 14, which probably contributed to his early death aged 48. I still remember him saying to me when I was a boy: “Never start this cursed habit.” 

That exhortation was more effective than any government-inspired ban could ever be.

John R McErlean
Elstow, Bedfordshire

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