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Empire caused misery

I think we should be cautious when evoking similarities between general historical atrocities and the Third Reich, with the latter’s deliberate attempt to exterminate whole peoples.

Nevertheless it remains true that Steve Thompson’s description of the British Empire is correct, and Jeff Adams’ rose tinted apology is not. It was an Empire on which the blood never dried, and its legacy includes immense misery even today.

Mr Adams cites India, as an example of a place where gratitude is due. But Britain deliberately destroyed an advanced economy.

From having 23 per cent of the world economy 200 years of depredation reduced it to three per cent.

Don’t take my word. In 1783 a Commons Select Committee reported “the natives of all ranks and orders” had been reduced to a “state of depression and misery.”

“In former times Bengal countries were the granary of nations, and the repository of commerce wealth and manufacture in the East… our misgovernment … within 20 years many parts of those countries have been reduced to the appearance of desert.”

Lack of space prevents a full answer to Mr Adams’ celebration of the railway system in India. A leading historian concluded British motives in building railways in India were “sordid and selfish … the promotion of interests of British merchants… ” there purpose to “assist the exploitation of the natural resources of India.” And with breath-taking Chutzpah Mr Adams urges gratitude for the abolition of slavery. In fact, two pillars of the industrial revolution here were slavery and theft from India.

From the start of the slave system there were revolts, small, big and massive and the scale of these revolts made slavery unsustainable by the 1830s. And at home opposition to slavery was a core of the radical working-class movement.

After the wreckage of colonialism in Africa decolonisation left in place pliant rulers who would deliver wealth westwards. Big western-based businesses are still bleeding Africa today.

Peter Smith, Woodside Avenue

Pay rise no solution

I am sure that those working in the public services will welcome their (recently announced) pay rises of between two and three per cent – even though it still does not compensate them for the decade of pay restraint they have suffered since the financial crisis in 2008/9. It certainly will not do anything to address the present problems facing all public services.

Several questions need to be addressed because all public services face similar problems. There is a shortage of trained frontline staff – and there is a problem with recruitment and retention. They are bedevilled by a deluge of ‘rules and regulations’ that have little relativity to the reality of the job. They are overburdened by a burgeoning bureaucracy and an autocratic administration that consider their systems sacrosanct. And they have the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads in the fear of litigation.

So, do we, the public, want proper public services? If so, we must be prepared to pay for them – but they should not be wasteful. Why are so many functions of public bodies outsourced to profit-making companies? If such a company can make a profit, why cannot the ‘not-for-profit’ public body provide it cheaper? And why are the ‘systems’ designed to produce statistics for the ‘bean counters’ rather than designed to serve the user’s needs?

Parliament must address these issues before our public services collapse.

Malcolm Morrison, Retired Orthopaedic Surgeon, Old Town

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