The call of the sea

“I do like to be beside the seaside”, the song goes. I for one agree wholeheartedly. We, as an island nation surrounded by the sea, have it in our genes. I often journey to the south coast for a break from the maddening crowd. I jest, because as soon as you arrive, weather permitting, there is a larger maddening crowd, but I imagine the readers will get my point.

As we approach the end of our journey I never fail to be amazed and filled with a feeling of well being as the sea and coast appear on the horizon through the car windscreen. Am I alone in that born and bred islander perspective? Granted the power of the oceans have taken many lives in the wrath of nature in all its fury and will continue to do so, as it has time since time immemorial.

I never ever feel as close to nature as I do walking with my good lady and my little West Highland Terrier on the beach. Take my dog, take my life. Rain wind or sunshine, preferably sunshine but not always on the menu. We are all just passing through this experience of life; how fast it goes, but our planet Earth and the oceans will continue until our sun dies. Make the best of it, everybody while it lasts. The natural cycle of nature decrees that nothing lasts forever.

Bill Williams Merlin Way Swindon

Hunts breed foxes

I was interested to read A Holman Baird’s letter from Rutland of 16 January. There is well documented evidence that when foxes are few in number there is a programme to breed them. Before the war, the Master of Hunting contacted all the hunts to breed more foxes because he feared a shortage.

When they have done this and the fox has had cubs, often the hunt goes cubbing; that is to throw the cubs to the hounds to train them. This is what is evil about fox hunting.

It is not for the control of foxes but an organisation that practises cruelty for sport. The Veterinary Association has a vested interest in the sport.

I have never heard or seen a car deliberately chasing and killing wildlife for sport. In fact it is quite the opposite.

Rev H W Jones Summer House Road Wroughton Swindon

Digging imports hole

In responding to Mr Warner’s letter, Terry Reynolds seems to have completely missed the point. (Left with a big deficit, SA 17 January). Mr Warner was talking about Britain’s balance of payments deficit with the rest of the world, whereas Terry started wittering on again about government spending exceeding tax and excise revenues.

In something like only two of the last twenty five years have we sold more goods and services to the rest of the world than we have bought in. On George Osborne’s watch this balance of payments deficit has swollen to 5 per cent of gross domestic product, worse than anything seen since the Conservative Government of the late 1980s. It was Harold MacMillan who said “We can’t all live by taking in each other’s washing”, and that still holds true today. The jobs now being created in fast food outlets, retail parks and construction make absolutely no contribution to our exports. But they give the public more wages to spend on imports, everything from wine and electricity from France, to cars and white goods from the Far East. Therefore, it’s quite possible that if the economic recovery takes hold, the balance of payments problem will get worse.

So how have we managed to prevent the value of the pound sterling falling even more than it has on international markets? By selling assets to foreign investors, that’s how. From the 1980s onward we have seen the gradual sale of public utilities, power stations, sewers, reservoirs, sewage treatment works and the like. Major stores like Harrods, high end residential property in London and elsewhere, airports and shipping ports, European fishing quotas, football clubs, HMSO air traffic control, and more recently Royal Mail, are also on the list. I’m sure I’ve missed quite a lot out, but eventually at this rate, we could end up selling everything that foreign investors want. Would Terry Reynolds like to suggest how we get out of the hole we are digging for ourselves?

Don Reeve Okus Road Swindon

Doing the figures

In this new year of 2014, I have written two letters to these pages, both mentioned the meeting in 1976 between the Chancellor Dennis Healey and the International Monetary Fund, on the subject of a £2.3 billion loan.

A letter from T Reynolds of 17 January referring to my letters asks, ‘do you remember when Mr Healey had to leave his holiday plane at Heathrow to meet the IMF?’ I thought no, I won’t say it; it would not be printed anyway. I’ll just say he was going to a conference, not on holiday. He then asks, Gordon Brown had two surplus budgets (I said three, it was the Tories who had two) why did he have to put up the price of petrol twelve times? He didn’t. Ken Clarke, the Tory Chancellor 1993-97 put a tax on petrol of RPI inflation plus six per cent in 1994 for every year until 2002. Gordon Brown, who became Chancellor in 1997, and who said he would follow Clarke’s budget for two years, scrapped it in 1999. An entry in my political diary (some thing I have kept since before Thatcher) said in August 2004 that petrol was 4 per cent cheaper in real terms than in 2000 and in 2006 an entry said that over 80 per cent of the cost of petrol was tax of one sort or another and 64 per cent was put on by Tory governments.

Alistair Darling’s tax in March 2010 was RPI inflation plus one per cent but was cancelled three months later by the Coalition, but they did increase the cost when they increased VAT to 20 per cent.

On the subject of income tax, the basic rate in 1997 was 23 per cent; in 2010 it was, and still is, 20 per cent. The figures you are quoting are allowances before tax is taken.

The national debt you are quoting is about right at the moment. It is expected to be £1.6 trillion by the next election. It was £700 billion in 2010, source: the Bank of England. Nothing to do with Labour.

M J Warner Groundwell Road Swindon

Not in best of health

In reply to an article in the Adver of 20 January about the current pressure on the A & E department at our hospital, can I ask Mrs Snelgrove, who was our Swindon South MP at the time, to remind us who was the Secretary of State for Health, who cancelled the doctors’ out of hours contracts and also cancelled the doctors’ requirement for weekend working?

The requirement for doctors to have to work weekends also stopped, when the pay for these staff, was increased by a large amount.

If you are taken ill at the weekend, do you call your local surgery doctor or am I right in thinking you have no choice but to go to A and E?

Can she also confirm the same Secretary of State for Health is now working, part time, for the firm that supplies agency staff for these departments, as well as being an MP?

Also the current Labour soundbite is about the cost of living, so can she also remind us of the effect on the cost of living for the people of Swindon, when the then Labour Council in 2003, in the previous three years, put up council tax by around 42 per cent?

T Reynolds Wheeler Avenue, Swindon

Proper independence

In a few months time the British electorate will have the opportunity of voting in the European elections.

Members of the European Parliament are elected every five years and in the last election, in 2009, in Britain, the Conservatives had the largest number of votes. With 27.7 per cent of those cast they gained 26 seats from a total of 72. This is because the EU stipulates a system of proportional representation.

UKIP came next and with around half as many votes gained 13 seats. Labour also gained 13 seats and the Liberal Democrats 11 seats. The Greens, who gained 8.6 per cent of the vote were allocated two seats.

Clearly the smaller parties are treated more fairly under proportional representation but even if UKIP double their votes they are unlikely to gain more than 26 seats and will remain a minority representing Britain in the EU Parliament.

The formation of An Independence Party can only improve the situation leading to a more representative cross-section of Eurosceptics. Importantly, MEPs would not be expected to join the pan-European right wing Europe of Freedom and Democracy group as UKIP MEPs have been expected to do.

The overall effect of An Independence Party will give the electorate and those elected greater freedom of choice.

David Smith (Chairman, An Independence Party, South West) Herschell Road, Exeter

Some queer folk

I was not really surprised when Jimmy Savile and other personalities came to light with regard to their sexual exploits.

The trouble with the viewing media, whether TV or film, is they are blinded by the images they portray on screen. The majority of these so called celebs cannot distinguish between the acting role and real life. And the arrogance and disregard to the people who put them where they are really shows no bounds. It does not take a genius or a special human to remember lines and live in a make believe world.

I hope justice prevails and they get an appropriate sentence when the verdicts are recorded. People must realise in this so called modern age of technology with internet, TV, film etc, never be taken in by the acting characters of the script writers creation. They only want you, the viewing public, to see that side of the profession. The real person is the one away from the camera and back to real life that matters.

Like they say up north, “there is nowt so queer as folk”, and this applies to showbusiness folk more than any other. I wonder how many more are dreading the knock on their luxury style doors?

H G Smith Wroughton

Inflation truths

Through most of my working life inflation was rife. As trade unionists we were told the lie that we were causing inflation by getting pay rises.

At the time I often challenged this assertion; my position has always been wage demands follow inflation, but conventional wisdom said inflation followed pay rises.

I see that in your email opinion column this lie is still being bandied about in relation to minimum wage increase.

That wage increases follow inflation has been proven over the last four years by the fact that inflation has been running running at five per cent while the Government of Messrs Buckland and Tomlinson has held wage increases at one per cent and, in the case of public service workers, 0 per cent.

A decent minimum living wage would take thousands, possibly millions, off of benefit, saving the tax payers millions, possibly billions, of pounds and put the payment of workers where it belongs, with the employer.

Surely someone who cannot pay their workers does not deserve to run a business?

Steve Thompson Norman Road, Swindon

Putin fights evil

Congratulations to President Putin for standing up for the rights of Russia’s children.

He has stated that he will not tolerate any homosexual propaganda during the coming Winter Olympic Games. At last, a beacon in this ever darkening evil world.

Steve Nibbs Milton Road Swindon


So that’s what caused floods

SO it would seem, according to a broad-minded member of the party of the people UKIP, that the government is to blame for our current flooding crisis.
Yes, the government is to blame because it is allowing homosexuals to get married. That, apparently, infuriated God, who let his ire show by opening his heavens and letting the rain pour down. Then he wouldn’t let all that rainwater soak into the ground, leading to people being flooded out of their homes or being trapped in their homes because the floods cut them off (and that’s probably because of all the extra housing that’s being built to allow all the immigrants to live here).
All of this because the Prime Minister has allowed gay people to get married. Shame on you Mr Cameron!
I reckon God has got more things on his plate actually than worrying about two people who love each other wanting their relationship to be recognised as legally binding.
Or perhaps God had nothing to do with the floods at all. Perhaps it was something to do with a build up of low pressure and storms over the Atlantic which led to heavy rainfall and tidal swells in Britain – but that is probably just the stupid fantasy of someone living in the real world.
I suppose if there was any good coming out of the UKIP councillor’s ludicrous opinions it is that it has stained his party’s reputation even more and will make people think twice before voting for them next year. And let’s face it, if UKIP did come to power, then I reckon God will start to get very angry indeed.
Stratton St Margaret