Socialist Worker

LETTERS: There’s plenty of room for refugees—just ask the toffs

Issue No. 2546

Bowhill house and its surroundings, part of the Duke of Buccleuchs estate

Bowhill house and its surroundings, part of the Duke of Buccleuch's estate (Pic: geograph.org.uk/Walter Baxter)


We need to thank the Financial Times newspaper for helping to explode the myth that “Britain is full”. Last week it ran a fawning profile of Britain’s largest landowner, the Duke of Buccleuch.

He has a mere 240,000 acres to call his own. This is made up of a 120-room castle, a Georgian mansion and a palace inspired by Versailles. The family also has a palace in Edinburgh, a 75,000 acre estate and 850 smaller properties.

The Duke has to get by on owning a company with a market value of £250 million, a 25,000 square foot shopping centre, a 172,000 square foot industrial estate and 12,000 homes.

Obviously, as a consequence the poor Duke is “constantly on the move”. He modestly calls himself “a nomad with some very substantial tents”.

After being educated at Eton College, the Duke became a member of the Bullingdon Club at Oxford University. Its exalted activities include trashing pubs and restaurants and burning £50 notes in front of homeless people.

Many titled landowners in Scotland gained their estates from the Highland Clearances during the 18th and 19th centuries.

People were forcibly evicted to make way for the profit of sheep farming. This resulted in a pattern of rural depopulation and emigration from Scotland.

Less than 3 percent of England is built on and only 7 percent of Britain is urban.

There are 635,000 empty homes in England with 216,000 of these unoccupied for longer than six months.

This is the result of a system that is based on profit not need.

We are forever being told that we’re too full to accept refugees when there are people already here who are homeless or in poor housing.

But there’s room for decent homes for all. What Britain is really too full of is rich landowners hogging everything for themselves.

Eleanor Woyen, Hull


Soldiers, like cops, have a licence to kill

The death penalty was abolished in Britain in 1965 following high profile miscarriages of justice.

It was as part of a series of major reforms including the legalisation of abortion and homosexuality.

But it seems to have been revived in the form of extra-judicial executions by police and the military.

So it was hardly surprising when Royal Marine sergeant Alexander Blackman’s sentence for killing a wounded Afghan man was downgraded from murder to manslaughter.

It was more surprising that the incident even resulted in a trial. Would it have done if the footage of the execution recorded on a fellow soldier’s helmet camera hadn’t been discovered?

Cressida Dick was the senior police officer in charge of the murder of innocent Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes and subsequently spreading lies about him.

She has now been promoted to Metropolitan police commissioner.

Britain and the US habitually use drones to murder unconvicted terror suspects by remote control.

Why would they bother about the law or the Geneva Convention when the lives at stake are black or brown?

Sarah Cox, West London


Making pickets official may backfire on Tories

Thanks to Sadie Robinson for her coverage of the Trade Union Act (Socialist Worker, 8 March).

But I disagree with her view that the Act is aimed to “put strikers off picketing”. Instead, the thrust of the Act here is to further increase trade union control of picketing.

The introduction of a picket supervisor, however irritating, does not significantly add to a union’s existing liability for court action if there is not “peaceful picketing”. Just read the now superseded 1992 Code of Practice on Picketing.

Ironically the law, by giving the picket supervisor a statutory basis, may enhance the legitimacy of picketing.

After the 1926 General Strike, the then Tory government contemplated a proposal to make pickets wear armbands. This was dropped because it would suggest that “a picket is a privileged person”.

Dave Lyddon, Keele, Staffordshire


A happy medium for the Welsh language?

Readers may find the debate about schools and the Welsh language hard to follow (Letters, 1 March and 15 March).

Dual stream schools provide bilingual education for the English stream with a choice to do some other subjects in English. Welsh medium schools teach all pupils mostly in Welsh.

The over 700 objections raised to the change from dual stream to Welsh medium in Llangennech school in Llanelli weren’t all from opponents of the Welsh language.

The change could mean children who live next door to each other having to go to separate schools.

The argument for just Welsh medium is that it protects the language and creates “true bilingualism”, claimed to have serious benefits. I worry that non-bilingual children could be labelled less able.

Supporting full equality of the Welsh language does not mean everyone must be truly bilingual.

Martin Chapman, Swansea


Headscarf ban is racist

The judgement of the European Court of Justice on religious and political symbols in workplaces is an attack on Muslim women.

It allows bosses to ban the wearing of the hijab in a workplace.

As a socialist I support the right of every woman to choose what they wear. We must stand in solidarity with those affected against this institutional racism.

Claire Chandler, East London


Memorial of a shameful war

The queen recently unveiled a memorial to 682 soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It will stand as a reminder of the lives needlessly expended by our rulers. As well as their own forces, far more people died in the countries they invaded.

It might also remind us of the turmoil they left behind and how Isis arose from the ashes.

William Burns, Edinburgh


Stereotyping never stopped

Kim Yung-a tried to retrieve her children when they hilariously interrupted an interview with her husband Robert Kelly on live TV.

Many viewers thought she was their nanny.

Similar stereotyping occurred in London at an International Women’s Day event. Three black Hackney councillors were mistaken for cleaners.

If you think we live in a post-racial society, you need to think again.

Jenny Leow, East London


Give credit to the courts

You’re wrong about the reason South Korea’s president Park Geun-hye was impeached. It wasn’t a mass movement, but evidence of corruption and South Korea’s strong and effective judiciary.

Simon Fraser, on Facebook


Hammond is on thin ice

Tory chancellor Philip Hammond rapidly dropped his tax hike on the self-employed.

I should think so too. Self-employed people don’t get statutory sick pay, paid holidays or help with a pension.

The Tory manifesto promised no tax rises.

Susan Renshaw, on Facebook


They are right to be afraid

Margaret Thatcher’s government feared the truth about Orgreave.

And the Tories are still telling lies because they know the truth will make them unelectable.

Ian Williams, on Facebook


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