The Spectator

Letters to the Editor | 11 February 2006

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Plight of the Poles

From Martin Oxley

Sir: Anthony Browne’s article suggests that demand from UK employers is driving mass migration of new EU nationals to Britain (‘Invasion of the New Europeans’, 28 January). The British Polish Chamber of Commerce can certainly confirm this view. Last year the Chamber organised two recruitment fairs for British companies and recruitment agencies, which attracted over 11,000 Poles interested in working in the UK. This year — because of growing demand from British employers — we shall be organising at least five recruitment fairs.

Yet the points made by Andrzej Tutkaj (‘The misery of the Polish newcomers’, 28 January) are also valid. Too many Poles get on a bus or plane (ten Polish cities now have low-cost air routes to Britain) without much thought as to what to do on arrival. These are the Poles who are most likely to end up in the grey economy, their lack of English being exploited by unscrupulous employers. A small minority end up homeless or become a burden to the social resources of the post-war Polish émigré community.

Our message to Poles is simple: do not go to the UK looking for work if you do not speak any English, or without a clear plan or an ample reserve of cash. Better still, set off for the UK only if you have a signed employment contract in your hand before leaving home, and know where you’ll be living and how much you’ll be earning.

Should there be a limit? The free market and the democratic will of the British people should decide.

Martin Oxley
Chief Executive Officer,
British Polish Chamber of Commerce,
Warsaw, Poland

From Dr Jan Mokrzycki

Sir: First of all let me congratulate you on Anthony Browne’s article. I would, however, take issue with him on some points raised. It is unreasonable to blame the immigrants for the lack of skills-training in the UK. That particular trend has now existed for several years; immigrant Poles did not create that system. Polish doctors, dentists and nurses are also filling gaps in our overstretched NHS, and the UK’s gain here is Poland’s loss. Hopefully, most of those people will eventually go back to Poland enriched by experiencing a different culture and having acquired new skills and new friends.

Mary Wakefield’s interview with Mr Tutkaj is another matter still. He is, of course, entitled to his personal view, but this does not reflect the view of the Federation of Poles. Yes, there are difficulties we have had to face. We have had to deal with people who came over expecting instant success, we even have a couple of hundred homeless Poles sleeping rough on the streets of London. But Tutkaj has got this problem out of all proportion. Two or even four hundred homeless out of an immigration of 500,000 is a fraction of a per cent. The same applies to the odd fight. Poles and all the other immigrants are humans, after all, and are therefore bound to contain a small unruly element.

Jan Mokrzycki
President, Federation of Poles in Great Britain,
London W6

The poorest don’t fly

From Richard Laming

Sir: I have no objection to cheap flights, but I do have an objection to irrational tax policies (‘The plane truth’, 4 February). The fuel used by planes on international passenger flights goes untaxed thanks to a prohibition in the 1944 Chicago Convention, whereas the fuel you put in your car is taxed at 47.1 pence per litre. This means that the most environmentally damaging form of transport pays the lowest rate of tax, which is surely irrational.

But, as well as being irrational, it also falls unfairly on the poor. Those who can afford to travel by air tend to be richer than average — the very poorest people cannot afford to fly at all — so this is a loophole that benefits the rich.

Richard Laming
London SE1

From P.L. Hill

Sir: I too have vomited on the ghastly crossing between Holyhead and Rosslare, but if Brendan O’Neill wants to visit Galway why must he use Luton airport? Snobbery is not the reason that there has been a massive local protest at the projected expansion eventually planned for up to 30,000 passengers. Extension of the runways will mean the ruin of one of the last unspoilt parts of rural England, including a historic garden and charming narrow roads through which one can still meander by car between fields and hedges, past villages almost unchanged since Saxon times. The increase in road traffic alone will mean widening these to everyone’s detriment.

Flights are available to Dublin from Heathrow and Gatwick, where the unfortunate residents have become so acclimatised to aircraft noise that a few extra flights laid on in the small hours would make no difference. The real secret is that at these major airports the tax on flights is a government perquisite, whereas at Luton a royalty is paid on each flight to the local authority. Mr O’Neill is in fact pandering to the ‘chattering classes’ by not taking his custom elsewhere.

P.L. Hill
Radlett, Hertfordshire

A necessary horror

From James Strachan

Sir: It is difficult to respond briefly to Jane Kelly (Letters, 4 February), particularly as we can all sympathise with her feelings of horror at the cataclysm of war, especially the first world war.

The main motor of the war was the desire of the German government, an autocracy, to dominate the continent of Europe and to extend its empire. That is why the Germans built an army that they thought strong enough to beat both the French and the Russians, and a navy that they hoped would be strong enough to beat, or at least to deter, the British. When they went to war, both their army and their navy failed. But the war had to continue, at great human cost for both sides, for another four years until the Germans were defeated.

From the point of view of the Allies, this was a defensive war, a war to resist aggression. The tragedy of a defensive war is that you are fighting and suffering to keep things the way they are. When you win, and they stay as they were, you may well wonder whether the tragedy was necessary. To find out why the Allies thought it necessary to fight on, you need to look at the impositions that the Germans made on Belgium and occupied France and at the peace terms imposed on Russia at Brest–Litovsk in 1918. You could also look at the fate of the Herero in Namibia — then a German colony — between 1900 and 1905. It was the way the Germans behaved to the defeated that persuaded the Allies of the need to resist.

This is history. We have learnt, at great cost, from the experience, and we all behave differently now.

James Strachan

From Nigel Jones

Sir: Jane Kelly may feel that it would have been preferable to live under tyranny than to fight a war to resist it, but the vast majority of those who fought and won the first world war did not. (I write as the son of a veteran whose brother was killed outside Ypres, aged 18.)

Thanks largely to a handful of poems by Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon and to tendentious works like Oh, What a Lovely War! and The Monocled Mutineer, the modern view of the war as a futile mud- and bloodbath fought for nothing is set in stone, but it is nevertheless a false view.

As a French writer — I think it was Camus — truly wrote, ‘The choice always comes down to Verdun or Dachau.’

Nigel Jones
Lewes, East Sussex

Worse than Hamas

From Ralph Blumenau

Sir: Your leading article (4 February) says that Hamas has power over its suicide-bombers and could, if it wanted to, control them. Maybe, but don’t forget that Islamic Jihad, with its own suicide-bombers, did not take part in the elections. In the unlikely event that Hamas were to renounce suicide bombing, it would risk defection from its own ranks to Islamic Jihad.
Ralph Blumenau
London W11

Educate, don’t brainwash

From Paul Phillips

Sir: Rod Liddle (‘Brains not included’, 4 February) is right to say that you cannot force people to be infinitely ‘inclusive’. We have to sweep all this nonsense aside and produce a generation of teachers who understand that inclusivity, non-racism etc., will be the result of a well-educated society, and that education, primarily, is about learning to read and write, skills which any employer can tell you are on the wane.

Education civilises; brainwashing with politically correct jargon does not.

Paul Phillips
London E3

Lesson of 1933

From Daniel Situnayake

Sir: I must applaud Julian Manyon’s article (‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of terrorism’, 4 February). For all the bitter lessons of the 20th century, we seem to have forgotten what happened the last time a major anti-Semitic terrorist group was brought into government through democratic election. Was 1933 all that long ago?
Daniel Situnayake
By email

No place for ethnicity

From R.E. Bland

Sir: The coincidence of A.N. Wilson’s excellent article on Michael Wharton (‘The enemy of liberal cant’, 28 January) with a letter from the twin of Keith Effluvium, aka Andrew Wood, ‘Director, Landscape, Access and Recreation, The Countryside Agency’ (sic) provided me with wry amusement. Keith/Andrew discloses that most countryside visitors are ‘mostly’ white (do they have purple legs?), a discovery he has learnt by ‘research conducted by the Countryside Alliance’ — of course, at our expense.

In a country which is still ‘mostly white’, I do wonder if such research is really necessary. And I wonder why Mr Wood comes to a rather bizarre conclusion (and justification for his non-job) — that ‘an increase in visitors from beyond the white, middle-aged middle class would be of considerable benefit to many parts of the rural economy’. Why would the countryside benefit more from a visit by a member of an ethnic minority than it does from appreciative, well-off, middle-aged white ramblers keen to spend their money in the local pub?

R.E. Bland
London SW6

Team Schumann

From Nerissa vom Baur Roehrs

Sir: Peter Phillips regrets that Shostakovich has been neglected in the worldwide frenzy of the Mozart celebrations. May I add that 2006 is also the anniversary of the deaths of both Robert (150th) and Clara (110th) Schumann, respectively. Surely the Schumanns, each in his/her own way, rank with Shostakovich in the pantheon of musical genius.
Nerissa vom Baur Roehrs
Leipzig, Germany

Waspish behaviour

From Frank Miles

Sir: There have been letters in recent weeks arguing for and against the existence of a Creator. But surely a key aspect of the debate has been ignored. This is the behaviour of the living things which believers claim have been designed by an intelligent and benevolent being. Those who watched the recent David Attenborough television series Life in the Undergrowth will have been struck by the extremely unsocial behaviour of so many insects. Take, for one example, the tiny wasp which uses a needle-like proboscis to pierce the skin of a living grub and then inject her eggs into the poor creature. The eggs then feed on the inside of the grub, causing it slowly to die in order that they may live. If this is the plan of an intelligent designer, one has to ask, ‘Why would he do that?’ And why, I would further ask, would one decide to worship such a designer?
Frank Miles
Beckenham, Kent