Letters, Wednesday, January 12th, 2010

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Labour MPs should be honest over class

IT was pleasing to note former New Labour Minister Tessa Jowell agreeing that class is less and less important to the voters of this country and as such her party should take notice. It is just a pity that many of her colleagues, some with an otherwise high degree of intelligence, are unable to accept this opinion.

Before addressing these people, one of their lesser lights must rank as the biggest hypocrite of all in the Labour Party, namely John Prescott, who has played the class card all his life but now sits proudly in the House of Lords as Baron Prescott, one of the Establishment he has spent years deriding.

On a much higher intellectual level than Prescott is the former Sunderland South MP Chris Mullin, who on several occasions was unable to resist the temptation to refer to the education background of Conservative George Osborne. Surprising that this tactic was adopted by a person who himself went to a private school and could proudly present himself to the voters of Sunderland as an Old Birkfeldian. Not exactly your typical state school.

A good historian who has been occasionally seen on the television is one Tristram Hunt. A close friend of another Labour noble, Lord Mandelson, Tristram was fast-tracked into the Stoke-on-Trent Central constituency with enough assistance from Labour’s ruling National Executive for the secretary of the constituency Labour Party to resign and stand as an Independent. On a recent radio politics programme, Tristram referred to David Cameron and Nick Clegg as “Posh and Clegg,” which rather persuaded me to further investigate the man himself.

Tristram actually turns out to be Rt Hon Dr Tristram Julian William Hunt, son of Lord Hunt of Chesterton, which in my book is rather posh. So why call Cameron posh with this background.

Just to complete the picture, Rt Hon Tristram etc was educated at the fee-paying University College School, London, one of 12 education establishments that forms an arrangement known as the The Eton Group, including inevitably, Eton College Berkshire.

I agree with Tessa Jowell about the class issue being generally meaningless to people, though she is a very late convert to that way of thinking. As for Tristram and his like in the Labour Party, why not be proud of your background rather than in total denial?

Nobody cares, so long as you do not go down the road of being a hypocrite by having a sly little dig at others with a background very similar to your own, but who happen to be from another political party.

Coun Michael Dixon (Conservative), St Chad’s ward

Tory lies over NHS

ALAN Wright seemed to be trying to blur the line between fact and fiction by using political idle gossip as though every word was true. He should realise, however, gossip is often used by malicious, spiteful people and those that have a score to settle.

This often happens in politics, where stabbing the back is quite common. Alan would be better employed dealing with facts and stop trying to peddle insignificant hearsay. For instance how does Alan feel about Cameron lying to the voters regarding the NHS? He said (Jan 4): “We are the only party to protect NHS spending. I’ll cut the deficit not the NHS”.

He did the opposite when the Commons Health Select Committee reported. There will be a real-term cut of around £0.25billion by 2014-15. The Royal College of Nursing revealed front-line services are being hit. For example, The Southend Foundation Trust have closed one general medical ward and will have to close a second ward which caters for elderly patients.

Dr Richard Vautry, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association, thinks some of the plans for the NHS are good, but added: “We are worried about other things the Government want to introduce because we believe they could undermine the stability of the long-term future of the NHS”.

On the health service Cameron has given us broken promises right from the start.

Driven by ideology, the Tories intend to privatise the NHS by the back door.

W. Quinn, Duke Street, Millfield

Rates exemption

INSTEAD of excusing an organisation from paying rates due since 2006, why doesn’t the council take note of Bob Latimer’s complaint in the article regarding sewage (untreated)?

He is a well-known and respected fishmonger, fighting for his fellow countrymen, whereas the Scientology Centre charges for books and services to enable anyone interested in becoming a member, but small businesses are having to close down due to cost of rates.

Come on, all you do gooders: help your own. I am aware that Scientology does lots of work to encourage a better way of life, but nothing is free – it costs the person interested money.

So just get your priorities right and do something. Wake up and do a fair day’s work for the huge amounts you pick up for being on the council.

E. Parker

Postage charges

I THINK the bah humbug award should go to the Post Office for charging £1.10 for a Christmas card they said did not have enough postage on it. It was a 6½in x 6½in card with a first-class stamp. Yet they charge the same postage for a card 3½in x 3½in.

We should go back to the old way when first class was when the envelope was stuck down or second class if it was tucked in.

Annoyed Elf

A popular friend

EVERYONE needs a friend, a Fisherman’s Friend, so says the advert.

I can confirm that the world-famous cough drop is enjoying a resurgence on Wearside, no more so than in the famous Ormonde Street Post Office queue.

Only last week I stood there for more than 20 minutes to buy a single stamp and all the “Dad’s Army” brigade were handing them round. It’s that kind of place, you know, the people are so kind and considerate.

The fact remains that Fisherman’s Friends were invented by a pharmacist in 1865 as a tonic for fishermen who worked in the Icelandic fishing waters, and since then they have taken the world by storm.

In fact, if you put together every Fisherman’s Friend that was eaten in a year, they would stretch around the world four times. Fancy that.

Personally, I don’t think people appreciate when they suck on a Fisherman’s Friend just what a important peice of confectionery they are eating. It is essentially a lozenge that in many ways is designed to help with coughs and sneezes. The downside being that because it is now so popular, folk are handing them around and it holds up the process of buying a stamp in the post office queue.

Mick “The Pen” Brown

Great hospital

THE last few weeks of 2010 were rather eventful for me. First I got gout, yes, gout. I thought this was a rich-living affliction (I wish), then I got this bug that’s going round. You know, the one that makes you sick at both ends (ha, ha).

But the main disruption to my celebrations was the start of a heart attack a week before the new year.

Having said all this, it’s not a cry for sympathy (all say ahh!), it’s to highlight the dedication and the wonderful care given to me by my doctors at Southwick Health Centre, the paramedics and ambulance staff that got me to hospital and last, but certainly not least, the whole staff at the Royal Hospital, the consultants and nursing staff who were very caring and professional throughout.

Granted there will be instances where people have genuine grievances, but a visit to any hospital, for whatever reason, opens one’s eyes to the incredible volume of work they get through.

Myself, I say thank God we have their services on hand and God bless all those who dedicate their time to help those in need. They should never be abused. It’s a difficult job they have to begin with.

To end, may I say a heartfelt thanks to the consultants and nursing staff on Ward B22. God bless you.

C. S. Wasey, Wayman Street, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland

VAT U-turn

ALL you hear from the Condemned government is the huge debt that was left by Labour.

Everybody has to agree that, like every other developed nation in the world, Britain has a large debt, but unlike the large debt left by the last Tory government (£350billion), with nothing to show for it apart from record high interest rates, record high mortgage rates, record high unemployment rates, record high NHS waiting lists and record high crime figures, there is a reason for the debt now.

There has been a world recession, the world banking system collapsed, but we still had under Labour record low interest rates, record low mortgage rates, record low unemployment, record low NHS waiting list and record low crime figures. At least the country has something to show for it.

In early 1991 John Major, the then PM, was asked if he was going to increase the rate of VAT. He stood up in Parliament and stated that the Tory government had no intention of raising the rate of VAT. In March 1991, shortly after that statement, the rate of VAT rose from 15 per cent to 17.5 per cent.

In the election campaign of 2010 the then leader of the opposition, David Cameron, when asked if he had any intention of raising VAT stated: “Absolutely no plans. It hits the poorest the hardest. It does. I absolutely promise you”.

The Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, warned of a “Tory VAT bombshell” and said it was a “regressive tax” which falls heaviest on low earners. A few months later, then in government, Cameron and Clegg raised the rate of VAT from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent, with the Chancellor, George Osbourne, stating that VAT was a “progressive tax”.

The moral of the true story? Never trust a Tory, and the least said about the LibDems the better.

AB, Durham

Mum’s thanks

JUST a short note to thank the kind person who found my son’s under-16 SAFC season ticket and posted it to the ticket office.

Thank you so much. It is really appreciated that you took the time to do this.

I would have written to thank you personally, but the football club didn’t have any of your contact details.

Tracey (and Daniel) Spedding