SIR – As the general election campaigns gather pace, coalitions are mooted and considerations of tactical voting emerge, there is one simple truth. This election is unique and exclusively about Brexit. It is, in effect, a referendum by another name. A vote for a party other than the Conservatives will strengthen the probability of a government led by Jeremy Corbyn, and a continuation of the Brexit debacle forever.
The only tactical vote worth considering, which demands head over heart, is to vote on this occasion for a Conservative majority. Subsequent elections could then be taken as a reflection of the real political map of the country.
SIR – The appeal from Ian Austin, the former Labour MP, to the electorate to vote Conservative calls to mind the February 1974 general election, when Enoch Powell left the Conservative Party and joined the Ulster Unionists because of his implacable opposition to our membership of the European Economic Community (as it then was) and his visceral dislike of Edward Heath, the prime minister.
Powell urged voters to support Labour, stood down as a candidate for re-election in his Wolverhampton South West constituency and said he would vote for the Labour candidate – my sister Helene, now Baroness Hayman. Labour, then in government, went on to hold the 1975 referendum. Ian Austin says that he will not become a Tory; Powell said that he would always be a Tory.
Déjà vu? Not quite.
SIR – The Liberal Democrats have joined with the Green Party and the Welsh Nationalists in a general election pact to prevent the Tories from winning seats in Wales.
Once again this demonstrates what lengths the Lib Dems will go to in order to further their cause, while forgoing their support for the Union. They are already demanding a second referendum on membership of the EU. This plays into the hands of the Scottish National Party, which can claim that holding a second vote would set a precedent for a second independence referendum in Scotland.
Gullane, East Lothian
SIR – Last Friday Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP’s leader, kicked off her party’s election campaign by making a statement in which she declared that “the NHS is not for sale at any price”.
I am mystified by her concerns. Surely when her party takes Scotland out of the Union and it becomes an independent country, the NHS will not be available in Scotland and will need to be replaced by a Scottish health service of some sort funded solely by Scottish taxpayers – or is that something else she assumes will be paid for in perpetuity by the English?
Britain needs fracking
SIR – Having lived for many years in north-west Colorado in America, and having been part of an energy group which gave detailed consideration to fracking, I am dismayed that the British Government has called a halt to fracking operations in this country.
After careful investigation, trials, analysis, and testing, our group concluded that any dangers to the local community, environment, and water table supply, were very minimal. Minor earthquakes were nothing out of the ordinary. The local and state governments agreed with our findings and granted licences for fracking in various locations. The local communities were engaged in consultation discussions and the authorities imposed some tough conditions on the drilling operations, with severe penalties in the event of non-compliance. The shale gas operators themselves understood and accepted their responsibilities, and went to great lengths to allay any concerns.
Britain needs to become its own energy supplier, and fracking can be a way towards that end.
SIR – The determinant for shale gas production is the permeability of the shale, and this varies widely. The first test results from Cuadrilla, the oil and gas exploration company, were published a few months ago and the flow rates were not viable.
There will be no more fracking in Britain. This has nothing to do with the environment or the protests – just plain old geology.
V T Evenson
Brave Allied troops branded ‘D-Day dodgers’
SIR – I hope that this weekend the country remembers a “forgotten” war in Italy. Seventy-five years ago this bloody campaign was coming to a successful conclusion for the Allies – but not before many thousands had been killed or wounded.
Having begun in Sicily and advanced north, the real battle started at Monte Cassino. Then came the landings of Allied troops at the resort town of Anzio. My uncle took part in the latter and eventually participated in the capture of Rome and Florence before being killed in the Apennines on the Gothic Line.
During this time the Normandy landings were taking place. Those soldiers came home heroes while, unfairly, the Italian campaigners were ridiculed as D-Day dodgers.
I have just returned from Faenza where I visited my uncle’s war grave, exactly 75 years to the day after he was killed. He was aged 21 and died two months before I was born. I had a guided tour of the Gothic Line and saw for myself the inhospitable terrain where our brave soldiers fought in atrocious weather conditions. In many respects it was far worse than the war in western Europe.
My lasting thought is how genuine, even today, the heartfelt thanks of the Italians is, for the sacrifices the Allied army made for their country.
SIR – During the Second World War, it was the Merchant Navy that ensured that we didn’t starve, and that we had sufficient coal, raw materials, ammunition and weapons to fight.
The ships were poorly armed and there were no major battles to mark their skill, determination and heroism – just individual encounters with a well-armed enemy. Without that skill, endurance and heroism we wouldn’t have won. D-Day would have been impossible.
Over 3,000 British flagged merchant ships were sunk by enemy action in the First World War and 2,828 in the Second World War, with losses of over 14,600 and 32,000 merchant seamen respectively.
Cdre Malcolm Williams RN (retd)
Checks on volunteers
SIR – I recently needed an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check – the most rigorous that can be requested (“Magistrate protests at ‘ridiculous’ checks for hospice work”, report, November 3).
It took two weeks, cost a few tens of pounds and, for volunteers, the update service is free. It is hardly a deterrent to volunteering.
SIR – Your article about Patrick O’Brian (Books, November 3) served as a reminder that the characters of Captain Jack Aubrey and Horatio Hornblower were based on the real life of the Earl of Dundonald, earlier known as Lord Cochrane.
He was a daring and successful captain during the Napoleonic wars, to the point that Napoleon called him “the sea wolf”. However, his efforts to expose corruption in the Admiralty earned him the enmity of the establishment. He was falsely accused of fraud and stripped of his honours.He left England, became admiral of the Chilean navy and was instrumental in helping the revolutionary leader Bernardo O’Higgins achieve independence from Spain. After other experiences with the Brazilian and Greek navies, he returned to England in 1832 and his honours were restored.
When he died, he was buried in the nave of Westminster Abbey. As a hero of Chilean independence, he is remembered on May 21, Chilean Navy Day, with a wreath-laying ceremony at his tomb. This is attended by the Chilean ambassador and diplomatic corps as well as by senior representatives of the Royal Navy.
The NHS lottery
SIR – As is the norm at election time, all political parties have a lot to say about the NHS. The NHS has many good points, but it also has many failings – not least of which is the fact that it does not live up to its name.
If it truly were a national service it would not be unreasonable for the population to expect to receive the same service throughout the country. Instead, the care provided by the NHS varies enormously depending on where you are. What we have is a regional health service.
Suffolk’s signal failure
SIR – The ongoing saga of the elusive mobile phone signal here in beautiful but relatively mastless Suffolk keeps throwing up new problems.
I have one spot in the house that gives me two bars of signal – and that’s with my arm hanging out of the office window, nowhere near a place where one might fit a smart meter. Texts from anyone are always a surprise as they arrive anything between five minutes and five days after being sent. Thankfully, electricity and landlines have at least found us.
Off-grid hamlet living is idyllic, but also rather isolating in this modern hi-tech world.
Heather M Tanner
Earl Soham, Suffolk
Getting the measure of your pub’s wine menu
SIR – Bruce Denness (Letters, November 3) asks what to call a 125 ml glass of wine when ordering in a pub.
On a recent visit to the Peak District, my wife and I stopped for a glass of wine. The lady behind the bar asked if we would like a small, medium or normal measure.
SIR – One should simply ask for a minimum-size 125 ml glass of wine, as stipulated under the Licensing Act 2003, explaining if asked that it is a legal requirement for this to be offered and served.
This option is often listed in very small print somewhere on a drinks menu, hidden from easy view.
SIR – Paul Clements (Gardening, November 3) is lucky to be able to “have the hots for compost” with his new plastic bin.
In the countryside, the plastic or metal compost bin is frequently used by rats as a multistorey, waterproof, heated condominium with a restaurant attached. During the bin’s brief time in use here, the dogs seldom left it alone, and were assured of entertainment. It was the only time that farm cats and dogs were able to combine in harmony.
Dinas Cross, Pembrokeshire
SIR – Now that manufacturers are finding alternatives to single-use plastics, will someone start producing sustainable tights?
I’m sure it must be possible to produce longer-lasting ones at a reasonable price – or am I destined to a life of thick tights?
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