Letters, Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

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Why there is a need for Pride march

YOUR correspondent “RM” (Letters, March 30) asks for an explanation for the planned Pride march. He or she suggests that it makes as much sense as a “not gay” pride march. In some senses, your correspondent’s thinking is on the right tracks. It should be absurd that we feel the need for a demonstration to show a personal preference (as absurd as a march to show that you prefer tea to coffee, for example). Unfortunately, the march is necessary, and there are good, sensible reasons for this.

Alternative sexualities have been considered social taboos for centuries, and your readers will have their own opinions as to why this is so. However, the fact remains that some people are gay, or bisexual, or transgender – as has been the case since the dawn of time. A person cannot choose his or her sexuality any more than they can choose, using my previous example, to prefer tea or coffee, so this taboo is obviously likely to cause many issues. These range from emotional issues such as worry about coming out, or spurious feelings of guilt, to much more serious problems of violence and hatred toward people who, by no fault of their own, do not conform to an arbitrary convention.

These issues still exist today, but thankfully, they’re becoming less and less prevalent. Among the reasons are the numerous Pride marches that have taken place since the LGBT rights movement began. These marches are there to show people who still have worries, fears or even contempt over LGBT issues that there’s nothing wrong or abnormal about alternative lifestyles. They exemplify the fact that it’s the taboo that’s the problem, not the breaking of convention. And they show that there’s no need for a gay, bisexual or transgender person to feel guilt or worry over something as simple as a question of taste.

RM is perhaps right in suggesting that many people don’t concern themselves with other people’s preferences, but the march is for those who, whether through worry or prejudice, don’t realise that.

John Appleton, Sunderland Green Party, St Michael’s Ward

Pension promise

INTERESTING to read that the Tories’ much-hyped proposal for a £140 pension rate will take years to implement and that current pensioners won’t be eligible for it. This seems to me as the worst case of pre-election propaganda since Nick Clegg promised not to increase tuition fees or David Cameron promised 3,000 extra midwives for the NHS.

You can just imagine now the Tory posters, scattered across the city from the A19/A690 roundabout to the Toll Bar, the letters from last remaining Tory die-hards or the Tory leaflets/newsletters, stuffed through our letterboxes, all from their “Department of Misinformation and Broken Promises” proclaiming, boasting and informing us that the next Tory Government, or maybe the one after that are to bring pensioners a £140 per week pension.

Of course, based on past “cast iron guarantees” I wouldn’t make any plans to spend it until it’s actually in your bank account and you know the price of a loaf of bread and a pint of milk or the cost of your gas, electricity and health care.

Bob Price, Rydal Mount, Fulwell, Sunderland

Watch out for Mick

WHAT an unpleasant character Mick “the Pen” appears to be.

I suggest anyone in the Ormonde Street/Chester Road area should keep a watch out for him.

He will be carrying a banner saying “Ban it” and singing “If I ruled the world” (off key, of course).

On a totally different theme, hands up anyone who thinks it might be a good idea to install the Adelaide on Vaux’s site.

G.M. Carlisle

Road network

RE the report under the headline “MP calls for car network” (Echo, March 30). It is all very well that Sunderland MPs are raising the issues relating to climate change with Minister Gregory Barker, but the reduction of carbon emissions in Sunderland would be better served if Sunderland was to be funded for a 21st-century road network.

Sunderland Council’s plan for a “Strategic Transport Corridor” incorporating their “iconic bridge” is so absurd, I believe Ms Phillipson MP should give the matter careful thought before approaching government ministers for funding.

It is primarily the lack of river crossings that causes the abnormally high carbon footprint that is due to the long, circuitous journeys necessary to reach any desired place within the city.

Sunderland people have right to reach their destinations by the shortest possible route according to government planning policy guides.

Residents of every other town and city in the UK do not have to crowd on to bus routes with their cars and cycles ... they have adequate road bridges.

Just look, for instance, at the distance an ambulance has to go from the depot at European Way to Castletown – it is only about 800 yards away!

It is worth remembering that electric-propelled cars are not a panacea for reducing carbon emissions if the power for the battery charging is taken from oil or coal generators.

Due to parliamentary protocol, the only way to address this message to Bridget Phillipson MP and perhaps get a reply, is via the Letters Page.

Ron McQuillan

City in a mess

BORN and bred in Sunderland 75 years ago, I was proud to say I was from Sunderland – not any more.

This council has brought us down to a one-horse town. Surely the people of Sunderland must be as sick as I am of the party politics we hear every day. The waste of taxpayers’ money must run into millions.

Just a few messes:

Talk of a new bridge started some 30 years ago. Plenty of consultation and expense – still no bridge.

Sunderland Station. How many refurbishments have wasted millions? It still doesn’t work. It should have been moved south of the present site and linked with Park Lane bus station. Which other city station has no toilet facilities? Disgraceful.

The Vaux site has been left empty for 11 years by a bungling council.

Roker and Seaburn are worse now than in the 1950s/60s – plenty of talk but no action.

£640,000 spent on consultants KPMG in the last three months of 2010 – for what?

Why 75 councillors (three for each ward) when decisions are made by fewer than 15 cabinet members, plus expenses for 75 in excess of £1million. At least numbers should be reduced.

Who agreed the chief executive, Dave Smith’s salary? Totally over-paid.

Personally I would love to see more independent councillors elected to give us more value for taxpayers’ money.

Everyone says we have a recession but the Government is still wasting money in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya. Will our politicians never learn?

After the demonstrations in London Vince Cable said they would not react.

What will it take for MPs to listen to the people who voted for them?

What would happen if all council taxpayers in the country refused to pay until we get a vote on the EU?

B. Patterson, Alston Crescent, Sunderland

Time for clock

RESIDENTS of Washington have recently received news on the extensive renovation by Prudential and Sainsbury’s of the Galleries shopping complex, with massive free car parking also being rearranged – all not before time – all combined with the Galleries bus station, a worthwhile investment for the future.

In view of the exterior poorly sited public clock, that has never worked for years and which is hardly noticed by shoppers, I wonder where the old development corporation’s £30,000 Lambton Worm clock, designed by Bob Olley of the famous Westoe Netty painting fame is. This unique clock was an attraction on the half and full hour for adults and children.

I hold, possibly along with Washington History Society, the only colour photograph of this unique item and it would enhance further the shopping experience for visitors and Washington residents.

B. Craddock, Donvale Road, Washington

Bad memories

YOUR correspondents’ letters about violent teachers brought back bad memories of the first time I got the cane at school. It still rankles to this day.

I was only nine and some boys were fooling about in morning assembly, passing hymn books along the line. I ended up with half a dozen books in my hands. The headmaster ordered me out and told me to wait outside his room. I stood there, scared to death, knowing what was to come. What made it worse was I’d done nothing wrong.

He led me into his study, taking great pleasure in my terror. I bent over, but he told me to hold out my hand. I got three strokes – what a shock when that cane came down, swish, swish on my poor hands! What angers me now is the damage he could have done to my wrists and fingers – there is plenty of flesh on the buttock to absorb the blows.

Years later I saw him again in Fawcett Street. He was old and frail and needed a walking stick. I thought what would people think of me if I knocked you down and hit you with your stick? An able-bodied man striking a pensioner? They’d think I was a real villain, and I’d deserve whatever punishment a court dished out. Yet when I was small, weak and vulnerable he beat me for no good reason. Talk about double standards.

I passed him by and kept to myself my dark thoughts on what I’d like to do with him. The irony is – by this time I was a newly qualified teacher myself.

Can you image the shocked headlines in the Echo? “Teacher Assaults Old Headmaster”.

Henry Whipple, Coach Road Estate, Washington

EMA was vital

COUN Oliver again displays his ability to parrot Michael Gove without burdening himself with the facts (“New bursary will still leave students on the breadline”, Echo March 30).

He is right that some people will be better off – two per cent of the number who currently get EMA will get 77p a week more. This applies to the severely disabled, or those estranged from their parents, and while it is right that we should help those young people more, 77p won’t even buy them a sandwich.

The other 98 per cent – four in five of whom are from households with income less than £21,000 a year – will be much worse off, and will have to go cap in hand to their teachers and college staff for money to pay for their bus fare, or to get a decent breakfast so that they’re able to learn.

What is more, the EMA was only payable on condition of good attendance and behaviour, so there was a real increase in attainment across the board after its introduction. The Institute for Fiscal Studies confirmed that EMA more than pays for itself in the long run.

The fact is that EMA was already targeted on the poorest. Taking away the guaranteed income it provided for those young people is not only callous, it is short-sighted. The pupils at the school Coun Oliver teaches at may not need that support, but many of his constituents do. He should be sticking up for them – not Michael Gove.

Sharon Hodgson MP

Price of petrol

LAST week I noticed the price of petrol at 129.9p a litre locally. Now it is at 130.9, so instead of going down a penny, it has actually gone up.

This means that the duty that would have gone towards the NHS, education etc has gone into the coffers of the big oil companies who, along with the energy companies and banks, are given a free hand to milk us dry.

But of course we are all in this together.

Derek Robe, Royal Courts, Sunderland