Why Ukip aren’t extremists
Sir: I don’t wish to be rude to Matthew Parris (‘Why Ukip is a party of extremists’, 1 June), but he should think carefully before labelling civilised citizens as extremists. It’s a silly word to use given what real extremists get up to these days, but the important point is that a growing majority of perfectly sane voters see current UK politics as baby steps meandering around a leftward-curving path to decline; and long for some good old-fashioned radicalism to wake everyone up.
For many ordinary people, the real lunacy lies not in the Ukip manifesto but rather in our courts’ slavish submission to the ECHR, in the government’s ludicrous ring-fencing of health and foreign aid budgets, the bonkers taxing of workers earning less than the minimum wage, and our masochistic refusal as a nation to make a stand against the nonsense that emerges from Brussels. Ukip supporters, prospective (like me) and actual, feel muzzled by the smug certainty of the bien pensants. That is why they are driven to use words like tyranny. It’s nothing of the sort, of course, merely the liberal ‘consensus’ that now dominates our politics; and the one-eyed refusal of those who believe they know what is good for us to see the debate from any viewpoint other than their own.
Sheep pay for themselves
Sir: Hill farmers are not paid to farm sheep; the opposite is true: the Single Farm Payment can be paid with no ownership of livestock, and agri-environment support is paid in the uplands for farmers to reduce their sheep numbers (‘Woolly maggots’, 1 June). Monbiot in his book is seeking a wilderness, but for the 40 million people who visit England’s National Parks annually, our man-made pastoral countryside is the main attraction. Rather than hill farmers being overpaid, I would argue that they are underpaid for their work in providing these visitors with the backdrop to their holiday. Monbiot has no regard for the tradition of collaborative working on commons, and the intricate landscape that hill farmers have developed over more than a thousand years.
The total British sheep flock is similar to that of 1868: about 30 million sheep. What Monbiot fails to point out is that as a result of government policy that paid per sheep from 1976 until 2004, this went up to over 40 million. It was that increase that tipped some fragile environments into a state of decline.
Although the national flock has now been reduced, fragile environments at high altitude are slow to respond and still require grazing to deliver the biodiversity ecologists seek. Wholesale destocking risks destroying our countryside and the communities hefted there. Extreme care is needed in making changes to the management of the uplands to avoid unintended consequences. Where Monbiot and I agree is that government policy in the uplands requires a thorough overhaul. But society as a whole does not seek his dream of a feral enchantment.
Director, National Centre for the Uplands Newton Rigg College, Penrith, Cumbria
Crossrail and beyond
Sir: Martin Vander Weyer (‘Digging into Crossrail’, 1 June) rightly lauds Crossrail as a great civil engineering project. Unfortunately it replicates the existing tube lines, with one track in each direction. With Crossrail’s multitude of stations, adding an extra track each way would have allowed more flexible operation using through trains and the possibility of 24-hour running.
Currently, 80 per cent of all journeys in London are made by road. The transport economist Stephen Glaister has made a case that it would be economic to build roads underground. An underground road network in London, with connections to main incoming arteries, would both relieve congestion and reduce air pollution.
Sir: The observation in your leading article (‘Don’t privatise justice’, 1 June) is correct: it will bring out the worst aspects of privatisation. When the Ministry of Justice tendered for courtroom translation and interpretation services, they made such a hash of it that the Justice Select Committee called it ‘shambolic’.
In the months since that stinging criticism, the ministry has announced its intention to force change to the provision of duty solicitors and to further reduce fees paid to criminal barristers. The introduction of price-competitive tendering into criminal law is potentially toxic for a political party which has traditionally upheld the rule of law. The Bar and solicitors are near unanimous in condemning the restriction of access to justice, as highlighted by 90 QCs in a letter to a broadsheet this week, and a 500-strong protest outside Parliament on 22 May. Of course, the Lord Chancellor knows better than all of these legal experts.
The privatisation of our courtrooms may be the least of our worries.
Knowing me, knowing you
Sir: The Bishop of London, in his shipboard lecture, did of course render the inscription at Delphi (Letters, 1 June) correctly as ‘Know yourself’ but he interpreted it directly to mean ‘Know that you are mortal and not a god’, and I’m afraid, having run out of column space (11 May), I took the liberty of compressing his words. It’s still good advice for bankers.
Martin Vander Weyer
Helmsley, North Yorkshire
Sir: Messrs Lamont and Kerr need not worry about the swallows (Letters, 1 June). Here in the north-west of England, just five miles inland from Blackpool, swallows, swifts and house martins have been in abundance since mid-April, already resulting in a first brood. As regards sightings of cuckoos, may I suggest a visit to the House of Commons?