Letters: The moving sight of a former Labour MP compelled on principle to reject Corbyn as PM

Ian Austin in front of an anti-Corbyn billboard
Credit: jeff gilbert

SIR – I was brought to tears by the interview with Ian Austin, the former Labour MP for Dudley, on Breakfast with Kay Burley on Sky News yesterday.

His announcement that he will not be standing for re-election because he believes that Jeremy Corbyn is unfit to be Prime Minister is to be applauded.

How refreshing to see a man of principle put his country before personal ambition – though it is sad that good people feel they have to stand down.

Amanda Malas
Hartley, Kent


SIR – This election is no longer about Brexit. It is about keeping communism out.

Ken Simpson

SIR – I am fed up of hearing Labour’s proposed spending being described as “investment”.

The majority of the plans give no financial return and fail to cover the cost of borrowing, which is bound to rise with the election of a Labour government.

Spending on health, education, housing and the police produces no compensation for the costs of borrowing, however desirable it may be. But it is too much to expect an honest description of this during a “spend, spend, spend” election, in which votes are being bought from those who don’t expect to foot the bill.

Alan Finlay
London NW4


SIR – Allister Heath correctly draws attention to the nightmare of Mr Corbyn’s plans for confiscation by nationalisation.

I hope the spotlight will now turn to the damage that would be done to pensions. All private pension schemes – including many whose members might consider themselves natural supporters of Labour – are dependent upon successful investment.

The value of a large part of their assets would be severely impaired at the moment a Corbyn government came into power, while the rest, invested in his target industries, would simply be confiscated.

Gordon Brown
Grassington, North Yorkshire

SIR – If the Labour Party secures power, will its economic policies reduce unemployment from the current level of 3.8 per cent?

Simon McIlroy
Croydon, Surrey


SIR – I seem to recall a time when those fighting an election would boast about what they could and would do if they were fortunate enough to win our backing. Today I can only find pages of hatred directed at opponents.

Clive Pilley
Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex

SIR – The concluding words (“Can you trust a Tory?”) of Sherelle Jacobs’s piece sum up the problem for Brexiteers in Labour heartlands. I fear that for many the answer will be “no”.

Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson need to see sense and put their differences aside. Mr Farage must drop his demands and Mr Johnson must accept that he needs the Brexit Party to wrest seats from Labour in its heartlands. If they don’t – well, Brexit will be the least of our problems.

Cliff Peers
Chester-le-Street, Co Durham


SIR – The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act certainly needs repealing – but so do the 25 stipulated working days from Parliament’s prorogation to a general election.

Until 2011, a 17-day period was considered acceptable. We have been in election mode since the June 2017 election, more so since Theresa May’s failure to obtain parliamentary approval a year ago for her Withdrawal Agreement, and still more since Boris Johnson replaced her.

Surely we all know our voting intentions by now.

John Birkett
St Andrews, Fife


Extinction Rebellion

SIR – I was shocked to read that an Extinction Rebellion defendant was found not guilty of criminal damage because she had a “very strong and honestly held belief that we are facing a climate emergency”.

I fail to see how this “belief” can justify spray-painting a council building. The magistrates seem to have allowed personal opinions to outweigh their judicial oath to act “without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”. Any mitigating factors should have been taken into account in the sentence, not the verdict.

Angela Graham-Leigh
Westbury, Wiltshire


SIR – I take it that any money awarded to Extinction Rebellion activists will be forwarded to the businesses and workers who were unable to go about their daily business due to the protests, and towards the cost of extra policing that we, the taxpayers, have 
to meet.

Anne Macfarlane Dunn
West Moors, Dorset


George IV in Ireland

SIR – As Lord Lexden says (Letters, November 6), in 1821 George IV went on a hugely successful 18-day tour of Ireland. It should not, however, be described as a state visit, as he went in his capacity as king of the recently created United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, so he was visiting part of his own realm.

Even “the Liberator”, Daniel O’Connell, suggested that “every peasant” in Ireland might give a donation towards the building of a palace in Dublin because “the joy of King George’s visit had penetrated the humblest cabin as well as the most resplendent mansion”. In fact, the money raised paid for a bridge across the Liffey that still stands, and the port at Dublin – then under construction – was named Kingstown in his honour.

Contrary to popular belief, the Crown has not always been a symbol of oppression in Ireland. Even Sinn Féin was originally a monarchist party.

Nicholas Young
London W13


Crisp finish

SIR – All public schoolboys know that an upturned iron, balanced between two stacks of books, will make perfect toast after a turn or two. Health and safety may not agree.

Willie Young
Newbigging, South Lanarkshire


Treatment withdrawn

SIR – In 2015, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence approved the use of collagenase injections for patients with Dupuytren’s contracture of the hand, a treatment that is quicker and cheaper than surgery.

On Wednesday, the manufacturer announced that collagenase was being withdrawn from sale in Europe, though it will still be sold in America, at a much higher price.

To introduce a new and effective treatment, requiring training of staff, and then withdraw it within five years for commercial reasons, seems to me to be unethical.

Frank Sibly FRCS
Ledbury, Herefordshire


Dogs for logs

SIR – Our lurcher, Riley, is lazier than Bobby the labrador (Letters, November 7).

If it is cold outside, he walks to the unlit wood-burning stove and studies it carefully, before going to the log basket. He repeats this manoeuvre, then looks at us pleadingly. If there is no response, he sits and shivers.

I usually give in and light the fire.

Roger Beeching
Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire


Wrangle for a ring

SIR – Your report (November 1) on women choosing their own engagement rings reminds me of my husband’s proposal 50 years ago in Edinburgh. He asked me to marry him and said he wished to buy me an amethyst engagement ring. I said that I would love to marry him – but I wanted an emerald.

I got my emerald and we have been very happy ever since.

Sheila H Bulmer
Kirknewton, Midlothian


Haut régime

SIR – At our village school the children’s lunch consists of a three-course, locally sourced, organic sit-down meal that would put many a restaurant to shame. Pupils then have 30 minutes of outside play in which to digest it.

Perhaps because of this healthy base, it is normal to be given a sweet after rugby training, having a haircut or taking out books from the library.

This creates an excellent balance of good food, exercise and treats that sets the children up for a healthy adult relationship with food and exercise.

Richard Sinnerton
Argeliers, Aude, France


Ignore best-before dates – and reap the spoils

Pantry with Fish, Eggs, Asparagus, oil on canvas by Jacopo Chimenti (1551-1640) Credit: De Agostini via Getty Images

SIR – I always ignore best-before dates, scraping mould off cheeses or jams.

I have a few items that are close to being used up: Tesco cloves, best before November 1995; Norma’s choice pepper sauce that was brought home from Grenada in 1994; and Sainsbury’s ground cinnamon, best before October 18 1976, which looks and smells just the same as my current jar.

R G McGowan
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire


SIR – When we moved house in 2012, I disposed of a packet of semolina with a price tag of 1s 3d.

Sheila Harrison
Copthorne, West Sussex


SIR – I have a bottle of peppermint concentrate that belonged to my mother. It has no date on it, but I remember making peppermint creams with it when I was six years old. I’m now just shy of 70.

Ros Mackay
Helston, Cornwall


The crucial last amphibious landing of the war

SIR – I have just returned from a commemoration weekend with veterans and next of kin remembering the last amphibious assault of the Second World War in Europe.

The battle took place 75 years ago and was crucial to opening up the port of Antwerp to Allied shipping, thus supplying the Allied armies with fuel, ammunition and food. Without a new supply base, any offensive in 1945 by the Allies would have faltered.

The approaches to Antwerp up the Scheldt river were heavily mined and covered by German forces on the island of Walcheren, a fortification bristling with guns of every calibre. Their capture involved 4 Commando and three Royal Marine Commandos (41, 47 and 48) and 10 Commando, made up of international allies.

A Royal Naval support squadron bombarded the German defences with everything at their disposal, including the 15-inch guns of HMS Warspite.

Part of the support squadron engaged the German shore-based batteries with conspicuous gallantry, but with very heavy casualties. Its aim of drawing enemy fire from the landing craft that were making the primary assault succeeded, but at a high cost. Thirty craft were sunk and more than 300 men killed in action. Once ashore, heavy fighting, often from gun emplacement to gun emplacement, went on for six days.

On November 9 at 08:15, after some negotiation, 40,000 Germans surrendered. By the end of November, after a massive minesweeping operation of the Scheldt, the first cargoes were unloaded at Antwerp.

Seventy-five years on, it is time that the significance to winning the war of the capture of Walcheren and the bravery of those involved was recognised and remembered.

Admiral Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
London SW1


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