The voyage of the Mayflower was not a colonialist expedition but a trading one sent by City of London merchants (“Pilgrim fathers: harsh truth amid the myths of nationhood”, Focus). Its aim was acquisition of timber and furs. Its success depended on friendly relations with the local Indians. The Pilgrims were ideal settlers because their radicalism strongly opposed mistreatment of native populations, a crime they associated with the Spanish empire. Indeed, pastor John Robinson explicitly instructed them never to take anything from the Indians without paying for it (including land) and urged them passionately not to take Indian lives. That’s why there was peace with the Wampanoag for more than 50 years. Colonies are not the same thing as colonialism.
The Pilgrims were victims of injustice. They were refugees, first from England and then from Holland, where Spanish invasion was imminent. How is it possible that in 2020 anti-slavery, pro-Indian, quasi-democratic refugees should suddenly become the butt of criticism?
So much for traffic calming
I live in the north of one of Ealing’s so-called low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), Central Acton (“The New Road Rage”, Focus). The only way to drive out of the LTN is to drive right through to the south end, then, if my journey is northwards, which most of mine are, drive along other roads, past the end of my own road and on to my destination. This enforced detour is about a mile. Every round trip I make includes an extra, unnecessary two miles and all the pollution that causes. I have been forced, against my will, to become a major polluter.
Most drivers are not as law-abiding as I am. They just drive on the pavement, round the planters blocking the roads. One very nearly knocked my son off his bicycle.
Covid: we know who to blame
We have now learned what happens when we shun the expertise of NHS and university virology labs, sidetrack local authorities’ long-established arrangements for tracking infectious disease and outsource almost all Covid-19 business to private businesses and corporations, often with little or no experience of public health or epidemiology (“Britain on the brink: dismay as nation faces up to prospect of new lockdown”, News).
Look closely and you will see that the almost daily failings of many Covid-19 services are down to the same handful of facilities management, service provider companies, accountants and management consultants – we know who they are. These are the very same profit-making enterprises that have been consistent offenders in the past, responsible for blatant and scandalous service failures. Having rubbished the civil service and dismantled much of it on the basis of the ludicrous dogma, “public bad, private good”, we are now discovering, to our cost, exactly why the civil service was established in the first place: because earlier governments had found it impossible to implement necessary and laudable policies without the allocated funds just draining into the sand, leached away by ineffective and larcenous intermediaries.
The civil service was once something we could genuinely claim to be “world class”. While the rest of the world admired and sought to emulate it, we trashed our peerless inheritance and laid the corpse on the altar of privatisation.
Climate change – a solution
In his response to Phillip Inman’s proposals, Dave Hunter highlights the need to tax pollution and fossil fuels and implement a response to the climate crisis and austerity which benefits the many (Letters,). A climate income, as campaigned for by Citizens’ Climate Lobby, would be an ideal solution to achieving zero-carbon emissions while putting money directly into the pockets of all UK citizens – and it would cost the government nothing.
A fee is charged on all fossil fuels as they’re extracted or imported, and this would rise every year, making clean energy the cheaper option for businesses over time. The money collected by the government is given back to residents as a climate income. Citizens would be protected from short-term price rises from high-carbon products through a dividend payment to every adult resident, and a half payment to every child. UK business exports would receive a rebate on the charge to encourage other countries to adopt the fee and ensure UK businesses remain competitive within the global market.
Our wildlife needs peatlands
There is another crucial reason for stopping the burning of peatlands, apart from the obvious one of helping reduce climate change (“A burning issue: ministers accused of stalling moves to protect peatlands”, News). This reason is the illegal but continued persecution by shooting and trapping of birds of prey. These birds rely on the food sources of the peat bogs and are seen as a threat to the so-called sport of grouse shooting. The Scottish Green party recently achieved a success by getting legal protection for mountain hares, which the shooting lobby sees as competition for the grass on the moors in Scotland. It would be good if similar protection for both hares and birds of prey could be achieved throughout the UK.
Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire
So let me get this straight. On the one hand, we must avoid buying peat-based compost in order to protect the precious finite resource of peat, a carbon sink; and on the other, peat is being burned to allow heather to grow in order to provide cover for game birds. Shooting ourselves in the foot somewhat?
France Lynch, Stroud
Get rid of GCSEs
Given our inability to provide fair and comprehensive measures of students’ understanding after more than a century of trying to do so, we should minimise the number of flawed, life-damaging assessments we inflict on our young people. Getting rid of GCSEs would be a good first step (“Schools make bid to kill off GCSEs”, News).
Professor Colin Richards, former HM inspector of schools
Spark Bridge, Cumbria
The glory of Essex’s islands
“I didn’t even know they had islands in Essex,” wrote Euan Ferguson (Critics, Television). Shame on you, Mr Ferguson. Essex happens to have more islands than any other English county and four of the 10 largest, to boot.
Canvey, little more than 30 miles along the Thames from the Observer offices, is home to nearly 40,000 people. Mersea’s oysters fed the Romans and are still popular in London and overseas. Wallasea is taking rubble from Crossrail to help build the spectacular new RSPB Wild Coast Project. You need to turn off the telly, Euan, and get out a bit more.