Letters, Tuesday, November 20, 2012

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Political life could be so different

UNTIL he inexplicably criticised the correct decision by Theresa May not to extradite Gary McKinnon to the United States, based on a treaty agreed by the star-struck Tony Blair with George Bush, the former Home, Education and Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, had rather been the forgotten man of Labour politics.

 How it could have been so different. In his first Shadow Cabinet appointments, after the disastrous General Election result of 2010, Ed Miliband gave Johnson the post of Shadow Chancellor, suggesting the new leader did not rate, like or both, Ed Balls, whom Gordon Brown had relied upon for advice on economic policy since the 1990s. It was an incredible snub for Balls, as Johnson had no background in economics or finance. Somewhat engagingly, but with more than a hint of what was to come, Johnson joked that his first task would be to “pick up a primer – economics for beginners”.

 The mistakes began quite quickly. Johnson got mixed up about VAT and food bills and then claimed on televison that employers’ National Insurance contributions were going up from 20 per cent to 21 per cent when the correct figures were 12.8 per cent to 13.8 per cent. Johnson was “off message” too, disagreeing with his leader over student fees, the 50 per cent level of tax and he said so publically. Johnson just did not appear on top of his brief and after unfortunate revelations about his private life, he resigned.

 So Miliband had to turn to Balls.

 Move on two years and the more Balls voices his opinions of the mistakes of those running the country, the easier it is to see why Miliband appointed Johnson in the first place. For Balls reminds everyone that he was the power behind the Gordon Brown throne on how the economy of the country was run and as such one of the leading exponents of the disasters created by his master’s government.

 Johnson is a seemingly genial man with a light touch and he could have done the politics well. On the economy he may have allowed Labour to move ahead, as I believe he would have apologised for the grave errors committed under their watch. And people might have accepted that. But Balls is a Labour politician who never concedes.

 Miliband also has an ex-Murdoch man as one of his advisors on communication and strategy, so it will be interesting to see what he comes up with to persuade the public that the very person who helped create the mess left by Labour in 2010 is the one who now should be entrusted with clearing it up.

 No wonder having Balls as his spokeman on the economy was something Miliband so desperately wanted to avoid.

Michael Dixon

Sunderland

Opportunistic plea

IN 2010 these fine words were spoken re: fuel tax: “Everyone has a responsibility to accept higher fuel bills as a price for saving the planet from the perils of global warming”. This was from the then Labour Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband.

 Yes this is the same millionaire red Ed Miliband, who now leads the Labour Party, which quite cynically and opportunistically called for the Government to postpone the upcoming fuel tax increase.

Alan Wright

High Barnes,

Sunderland

It’s a tough job!

IN an article on November 6 Louis Saha is quoted as saying that “football is a difficult job”.

 I can only deduce from this that he has never done any other job; for example, he must never have done a 12-hour shift underground, or overnight on a hospital ward, or on a building site in all weather, or – the list goes on.

 But poor thing, it must be really difficult being paid a fortune to kick a ball around.

A Moon,

Lakeside,

Sunderland

Logic is needed

DOES “Freedom of Information” mean that one gets the truthful answers?

 I made a request to to the city for information regarding the delays in the opening of the Software City in July and duly received a reply in August which included the following.

 “Although the shell of the building has been constructed, finishing to the internal fixtures and fittings is ongoing. The Council is also still in the process of procuring the information and communication technology provision so the building cannot yet be classed as complete. The end of September is the target date for occupancy.”

 I did submitted a supplementary request for more information on October 2 and I am awaiting a reply.

 Surely the whole concept of office space for new software businesses should have started with “perfect” internet links.

 Should we trust our City Fathers, with initial input from the university, One Northeast and numerous consultants, to apply some logic before starting major projects with our money?

John Lloyd