There is a tacky interface between industry and government when it comes to public health or the environment, and it is abundantly clear that Brexit is fatally shifting the balance towards deregulation (“Green watchdog will lack bite after Brexit”, News).
It is no coincidence that the most prominent Brexiters are also climate change deniers because they perceive climate change legislation as a major threat to industrial profit. This is the reason that the Department of Energy and Climate Change was dissolved, the reason that climate change has been omitted from the remit of the government’s new green watchdog, and the reason that Brexiters fulminate against the Climate Change Act.
The ruinous aspect of their delusion is that climate change offers huge opportunities to UK businesses that invest in energy efficiency, clean energy or ultra-low emission transport, as these new technologies can then be exported, something that Brexiters are apparently keen to promote. Instead, the government has scrapped zero-carbon buildings, abandoned the tidal barrage in Swansea Bay and frozen the fuel escalator, thus encouraging the rapid growth of diesel vehicles.
The chancellor boasted that this had saved motorists £47bn over the past seven years. Unfortunately, air pollution has cost the NHS £140bn over the same period and 280,000 premature deaths. How tragic that Brexit generates politicians of such limited vision who can only look backwards.
Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Chair, Help Rescue the Planet
I’ll drink to that
In Robin McKie’s article about social drinking (“Why social drinking is an ancient ritual”, Focus), you may be interested to know that the photograph of “drinkers in a hotel bar in 1939” featured my mother, Camille Cowtan (nee Silvera), at the age of 22 years. She is now 101 years old and in good health, residing in a nursing home in Stockport, Greater Manchester. Perhaps this backs up the theory that social drinking can be beneficial.
A guide to German politics
James Hawes on the far right in Germany reminds me of a guided tour in 1982 in Czechoslovakia (“Germany’s far right never went away, but festered in its eastern stronghold”, Comment). The minibus group was a mix of British and West German tourists.
The Czech guide, when we arrived at Lidice, mentioned that her mother had died in Auschwitz. I asked how she felt about dealing with the West Germans. She responded that the West Germans were fine as they had faced up to their past. She feared the East Germans because they had never been “de-Nazified”. Thirty-six years later, reunification hasn’t changed that mindset.
Why aid makes a difference
Kenan Malik is right to note that some aid is guided less by poverty than by geopolitical and strategic interests (“As a system, foreign aid is a fraud and does nothing for inequality”, Comment). However, the piece doesn’t mention the importance of “quality” in aid.
When aid is good quality it makes a real change in the lives of poor and marginalised people. When aid is bad quality, it fails to tackle poverty and work for those it was meant to help. For aid to live up to what’s expected of it – for it to be “real” aid – it must bespent in the areas and on the people most in need. It must prioritise those it is intended for, be properly monitored and offer value for money. And it must be transparent, so spending can be tracked.
Almost all UK aid meets this definition. In recent years, UK aid has helped to vaccinate 37.5 million children, and a further 11.4 million children receive a decent education. The public are attuned to this and support aid that is good quality. When a tabloid howls at “wasted aid”, the programme in question is rarely “real” aid addressing poverty. Far from “entrenching inequality”, real UK aid makes a difference to the lives of millions.
UK director, the ONE Campaign
What the paper said
I would like to clarify some points about the Press, a newspaper in West Yorkshire that featured in an article last week (“The far-right activist and the editor: how paper is ‘sowing division’ where an MP died”, News). The story appeared to confuse editorial comment with news reporting in respect of opinion columns. Editorial comment is free to be more partisan within certain legal restrictions.
I was responsible for newsgathering at the Press from March 2011 to August 2016. The news reporting was factual, impartial and written in a neutral tone. It also had an investigative side, centred on public affairs journalism.
Great effort was made to report facts accurately. There was no twisting or spinning to suit an agenda – and any alleged mistakes were certainly not intentional. The responsibilities were taken seriously. Any problems with the factual nature of the reporting were corrected immediately online and then in the next print edition.
Issues were also looked at from as many sides as possible. These ranged from trade union officials to environmental campaigners, councillors of all political parties, headteachers and hospital managers among many sources. And, yes, that did mean contacting extremist groups on occasions and recording their views accurately. Also, the newspaper covers not just Batley, where it is based, but other places including Dewsbury, its former home.
Arms and the man
School authorities, parents and students should be advised that there is an alternative perspective to that peddled by the barbarous defence/war industry (“Who spends millions to push its brand in our schools? The world’s arms industry”, News investigation).
The arms trade is an inefficient use of vast resources, manufacturing harmful products. The manufacturer’s balance sheet and the country’s GDP state that it is profitable. Measured in money, the value of adverse production is calculated to be equal to prosperous production: a problem of economics deeming all production to be wealth creation and of positive value, even when contrary to the (international) common good.
Arguably, because of the absence of any benefit for the target/human life/civilisation/environment, the manufacturing process is destroying existing wealth and, in so doing, devaluing the money used as the measure. The arms trade is negative value production that adversely affects international currencies as well as life, living standards and the natural world.