Theresa May must think about the interests of the British people

Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon are clashing over Scotland's referendum date: PA

Why are we being stampeded into triggering Article 50 by only 37 per cent of the electorate? Many people do not realise that this represents an irrevocable decision to leave the EU. It is like breaking an egg, any subsequent negotiation is the process for cleaning up the mess!

Perhaps the haste is to trigger Article 50 before the grim reality hits: rising inflation from the falling pound; higher unemployment as the motor industry recedes; increased taxes to pay for more civil servants and to prevent the collapse of the NHS and Social Security and cabbages rotting in the fields because there are no foreign workers to harvest them.

There is little point in triggering Article 50 until the political climate in Europe has stabilised following elections in France, Germany and Holland. It would be better to delay until the autumn, preferably after a general election between the Brexiteers and an Anti-Brexit Coalition, following an informed public debate. This would give a clear mandate and avoid another election failing as we are closing the Brexit negotiations.

Jonathan Hill

It was obvious from the moment the Brexit referendum result was announced that the United Kingdom had become more fragile, with Scotland likely to restart the process of break-up by seceding (or “becoming independent” as they brightly put it).

So the Prime Minister is in an impossible position, but her schoolmarmish condescension to Nicola Sturgeon shows she just wishes the troublesome Scots would clear off and stop bothering her. But saying “now is not the time”, and holding off a second independence referendum until after a Brexit deal (if she manages it) may actually cause further difficulties for Theresa May.

She haughtily tells us all that, come what may, we will have to be satisfied with the pig in a poke labelled Brexit that we’ve bought; none of us, parliament or people, can have any more say in the matter.

The Scots, however, under May’s apparently-favoured timetable, will be given the chance to inspect the pig when the bag is finally opened. Then they can decide whether they want it or not (no matter that most of them didn’t buy it in the first place). A second independence referendum will effectively be a chance for them to vote on the deal. What will the English say then? No doubt Sturgeon doesn’t care, but it would be foolish of May not to.

Paul Edwards

So Theresa May is ruling out a referendum on Scottish independence because it would be unfair on the people of Scotland to expect them to take such an important decision without knowing the full implications of the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Meanwhile she and her stooges blunder blindly on with the process of withdrawing from the EU on the strength of the votes of 37 per cent of an electorate who were voting in a referendum where nobody, least of all May and her government, had the faintest clue as to what the outcome would be.

That wasn’t unfair, that was “the will of the people”.

Can Theresa May and her colleagues possibly be so obtuse as not to see the glaring contradiction?

Or is it just that they think “the people” they pretend so reverentially to defer to are so obtuse that they won't notice?

David Maughan Brown

May is right that ‘now is not the time’

Another day, another bout of Ms Sturgeon’s carefully manufactured anger. Her tactic is to make the UK government an offer it cannot accept, and then rage about them not accepting it.

We saw this with Sturgeon’s so-called “compromise” over Scotland retaining single market membership while the rest of the UK left. This was never a practical proposition, and Sturgeon knew it. When it was refused, she had a tantrum.

The same has happened over her demand for another Scottish referendum. She knows that Theresa May cannot sanction a domestic campaign while the tricky business of Brexit is being negotiated. May’s “now is not the time” elicited the kind of incandescent response that we have come to expect from the SNP when they (the SNP, not the “people of Scotland”) have been thwarted.

The SNP needs to recognise some home truths, particularly about the Scottish economy. They need to take on board the example of Quebec, whose economy was seriously damaged by the neverendum of the late twentieth century. And the SNP needs to recognise that the Brexit negotiations are unlikely to be done and dusted by autumn 2018 or spring 2019.

May is entirely right to tell Sturgeon that now is not the time. She should stand firm. In any case, holding a referendum is not a devolved matter; it is a reserved matter. Sturgeon would do better to attend to her devolved responsibilities that have been sorely neglected during her tenure of office.

Jill Stephenson

Judge women on their values, not their hijabs

As we commemorate anti-racism day on 18 March, we must do everything to cherish the memory of those who sacrificed their lives and livelihoods for human rights, dignity and inclusion. This year’s anniversary comes in the midst of great turmoil and uncertainty, and in coincidence with the European Court of Justice ruling to ban women from wearing headscarves in the workplace.

There is some misunderstanding widely circulated in Western circles that the headscarf or ‘hijab’ is a symptom of the oppression of women or their powerlessness in society. However, this is not the way countless Arab and Muslim women see it. And why not judge women through their values, their principles, their ethical morals, the way they think and contribute towards humankind?

Women feel more liberated when they can freely access equal rights, opportunities, economic resources, health information and services; when they live in societies free from sexual harassment, violence and humiliation.

Today is the right time to renew our efforts to address the myriad challenges that affect us all from climate change, housing shortages, air pollution, income disparity, environmental degradation, global injustices, poverty, racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, xenophobia, prejudices and social marginalisation.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob
London, NW2

Stop blaming Jeremy Corbyn

So, the Tories make a manifesto pledge to never raise income tax; they even put it into law. Osborne concocted this one for no other reason than to win an election. They subsequently let funding for social care get to its knees before they decide to take measures to fund it by raising NICs for the self-employed.

Their paymasters in the right wing press and beyond don’t like it and get it reversed within a week (no need to ask the subject of Murdoch’s Downing Street meeting that week) – after all, who needs social care (education, NHS, and housing)? Philip Hammond conceded it was the award-winning journalist Laura Kuenssberg who spotted it was a break of an election manifesto promise and not himself.

However, with just 30 minutes notice, Jeremy Corbyn was lambasted by all for not capitalising on this manifesto issue and later for not landing a punch in PMQs.

Is there any situation that will not result in Jeremy Corbyn being the fall guy? The man has been banging on about under-funding of social care since he came into office for god’s sake. Talk about a Westminster bubble – who gives two hoots about the vacuous sparring and posturing that goes on in the House of Commons when the reality is that gross inequality and under funding is a real issue, and it is experienced daily by many?

It seems whatever happens, this message of Jeremy Corbyn’s must never be allowed out, and deceit, distortion and diversion must prevail at all costs when it comes to reporting on the man and his political successes. This week was a perfect example of that: Tory politics, Tory incompetence, Tory lack of leadership, Tory obsession with vote winning, Tory paymaster control...

And should we be more than a little concerned that the Brexit negotiations will be conducted with the same flare of political brilliance and laser sharp precision that was laid bare for all to see this week? I think so – but don’t despair, in due time we’ll just pin that one on Corbyn also.

David Oliver
South Derbyshire

Campaign promise breaking is arrogant

Perhaps I’m naive, but surely the Budget proposals would have been discussed by the Cabinet before being announced?

If that is the case, it seems that either nobody realised that raising NICs would break a manifesto pledge – which is careless, at best – or the Cabinet decided that it didn’t matter, which looks very much like arrogance.

Peter Elliott
St Albans

No justice for Blackman

I do not believe that justice has been done in Sergeant Blackman’s case. The appeal court accepted that Blackman was suffering from a mental illness when he killed a mortally wounded Taliban insurgent on the battlefield, and substituted a verdict of manslaughter in place of one of murder. However that is still a conviction.

Every soldier who goes into battle against any foe is at significant risk of developing mental illness, whether an adjustment disorder as in this case, or PTSD, or something else. That we prosecute a mentally ill soldier in a case such as this, rather than treat him and protect him from prosecution is unjust and also a breach of our national duty to care for those who protect us.

Furthermore, this epidemic of prosecutions of British soldiers who have served our country in a whole series of conflicts at home and abroad greatly undermines the security of our country and thus puts at risk the liberty of over 60 million people who live in the UK. The politicians, lawyers and army officers who have presided over this bulk travesty of justice should examine their consciences.

Only a royal pardon for Alexander Blackman will suffice to do justice and to encourage our young people to come forward to guard us while we sleep.

Otto Inglis

My brother-in-law Ludwig died on Saturday March 11, 2017. I’m writing this a few days later, as we’re on the Dover-Dunkirk ferry, driving to his home village in Germany, for his funeral.

Ludwig would have been 61 this year. In recent years he had severe dementia. He didn’t respond at all to anything the last few times we went to see him. He had 24-hour care in the specialist care home where he’s been for the past 5 years or so.

The hardest part of getting Ludwig into care was convincing his mother, who is 89 years old now, that she really would not be able to look after him herself any more. He needed a team of professional carers. She was absolutely opposed to “putting him in a home”. She said she hoped he would die before her, she was so determined that he should never be in a situation where he might suffer indignity. We’ve all heard of neglect and mistreatment of people in residential care, and of course with dementia, there would be no way for him to communicate what was going on.

In the end, his siblings found Ludwig a fantastic state social insurance and charity-funded placement that met his particular needs, just a 20-minute drive from his mother’s house. It is a rural area of farms and small villages, so I thought Ludwig was fortunate to get this place in the nearest market town. Over the next few years, when we visited him, we would go unannounced, so staff could not prepare in advance or anything, and we talked to other visitors about their impressions, and to other patients who were able to speak.

I thought so many times when we went to see Ludwig: this terrific, dignified treatment is possible in Germany, and in Scandinavia too, and no doubt in other countries... why not in England? At the time Ludwig was admitted, I was working in NHS hospitals, and had witnessed some very different things to what I saw in Germany.

Germany somehow manages to provide high-quality health and social care to its citizens, with its 80 million population, plus the million more refugees they welcomed. Britain by comparison, with 65 or so million people, and screaming “We’re full up!” in the faces of asylum seekers, lurches from one healthcare crisis to the next. Germany, with its current right-wing Christian democrat government, somehow manages to feel like more of a socialist country than Britain did under the most recent Labour government.

There’s no secret to how to provide excellent public services. Public funding comes from taxes and voluntary contributions. Citizens and corporations must be willing to pay. I think Germans fundamentally understand that, while English people often appear to demand that they are simply entitled to things they’re not prepared to pay for. England needs a taxation revolution. High standards of publicly-funded education, healthcare, and social care, provided not-for-profit, are necessary for a functioning democracy. In practice, there’s no representation without taxation.

My brother-in-law Ludwig was born in 1956, into a society that had learnt from horrific experience how to share, and co-operate, and treat fellow citizens with respect and dignity, and their country prospered as a result. Ludwig was a lucky man. I hope that some coming generation of my English countrymen should be so lucky as Ludwig.

Evelyne Godfrey

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