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Letters—Silvertown doesn’t want to be part of polluting Formula One

Newham is plagued by the highly polluting infrastructure. Formula One event proposals now rub salt into the wound, argues Josh Largent.
Issue 2781
Ferrari Formula One team perform a pit stop

Ferrari perform a pit stop in SIngapore, also a street circuit. (Photo, Steven Tee/LAT Photographic)

The proposal of a new Formula One (F1) race in Newham, east London, is an insult to residents who already suffer the highest levels of particulate matter air pollution in the country.

This event on people’s doorsteps will increase traffic and use of City Airport, whilst promoting a car culture. This will expose residents to even higher levels of toxic air, far exceeding World Health Organisation limits. 

Over half of children in Newham live in poverty. They are already blighted with dust from the hundreds of lorries travelling to and from the building site of the proposed Silvertown Tunnel.  

London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s toxic project of a four lane tunnel under the Thames has lorry only lanes and currently no access for pedestrians or cyclists. 

This offers nothing to working class people in Newham but toxic air.

The promises of bio fuel engines by 2025 and net zero by 2030 shouldn’t fool anyone into thinking F1 is environmentally friendly. Currently F1 produces 256,000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. 

Ferrari had a team value of around £1 billion. F1 is an opportunity for the £39 billion company to advertise fuel hungry cars for the super rich. 

UK race team McLaren, valued at £560 million, sacked 1,200 workers during the Covid pandemic but boasts achieving Carbon Trust Standard for cutting emissions. 

McLaren’s main stakeholders are the Bahrain Royal family, who also control Bahrain Petroleum Co—one of the top 100 carbon emitting companies in the world  

Once more the pursuit of profit will affect the poorest people disproportionately.

F1 makes big money—and we cannot abstract its carefully curated image from the sponsorship’s, travel emissions and promotion of car culture which are an inherent part of the events.  

Newham needs serious investment in public transport, not motorsport races.

It’s time that mayor Khan hit the brakes.

Josh Largent

Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition

Pay the debt to Iranians

Richard Ratcliffe has been on hunger strike since 24 October to pressure the Tories to do more to secure the release of his wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from Iran.

She was jailed on spying charges which she denies.

A key issue that keeps her in jail is that Britain won’t pay a debt to Iran.

In the 1970s, the repressive regime of the Shah of Iran, an important Western ally, ordered 1,500 Chieftain tanks and armoured vehicles at a cost of £400 million from Britain.

Fortunately the Shah was deposed by the 1979 Iranian revolution. The new government cancelled the contracts, but the money had already been handed over. Not surprisingly, the Iranians wanted the cash back, with interest.

The issue has been going through the courts ever since. An international arbitration in 2008 ruled Britain owed the debt.

Tory defence secretary Ben Wallace acknowledges the debt should be paid. But he says it can’t be done because it would breach European Union sanctions.

Here’s one way out. When then US had a similar case in 2016, the administration of Barack Obama secretly organised an airlift of £300 million in  cash to Iran. It coincided with the release of four Americans detained in Tehran. It followed it up with two more payments.

Here’s a useful thing some friendly airline could do—fly out the money owed.

Fern Bonicel

West London

Stop the restrictions on medical cannabis supply

Since 2018 specialist doctors have been allowed to prescribe cannabis as part of the NHS.

This was a welcome change for many as the medicinal properties of cannabis are hard to dispute.

It has been proven to be especially helpful for those who suffer from insomnia and chronic pain conditions. 

But many people still struggle to get prescriptions and if they do their prescription can be withdrawn at any point. 

The End Our Pain campaign group says patients are facing an “almost total block” on access to NHS prescriptions and families were being forced to go private. 

The alternative is to turn to buying cannabis on the streets. 

Meanwhile Britain slowly becomes one of the largest exporters of cannabis in the world. Last year the British medicinal cannabis industry profited £64 million.

This is a disgusting figure when so many who require cannabis for everyday life are unable to access it. 

Fran Yepes

South London

Taiwan must ally with China’s workers  

Increasing tension over Taiwan is part of a more confrontational stance towards China by both the Donald Trump and Joe Biden administrations. 

So while Dan Conquer (Letters, 3 November) is right to say that socialists should support the right of Taiwanese to self‑determination, this can’t mean simply calling for independence. 

Any declaration of independence would likely provoke an invasion by China, but the US is committed to defending Taiwan. 

In other words it could ignite a third world war.

That would be devastating for Taiwan’s people and wouldn’t represent any real independence. 

Genuine self‑determination has to rely on allying with the democracy movement and workers’ struggles in China itself. Only fundamental change across China can create the conditions for a choice between reunification or independence free of imperialist involvement and the threat of war.

It should be noted too that the large majority of Taiwanese, whether supporters of reunification or independence, are descended from people who migrated from China at various times over the last few hundred years. 

The real indigenous people are the marginalised and impoverished Austronesian aboriginals who now form less than 2 percent of the population.

Simon Gilbert


No to jailings of protesters

Nine non-violent protesters were this week set to be sentenced to up to two years in prison. 

Their supposed crime was protesting on the M25 with Insulate Britain. 

They are part of a group of over 30 who could face similar sentences over the coming months.

As we saw Cop26 fail to deliver, it’s more important than ever to defend disruptive disobedience.

I hope that everyone who rightly opposed the police bill will also show solidarity in this case.

Steph Walsh


See stats on stop & search 

The government’s official stop and search statistics, covering the year up to April 2021, should have been published last month. 

But the Home Office failed to do so. It says the delay is because there is a “record level” of data.

I bet when the figures come out there will be evidence of even more racist use of stop and search hitting black people. 

The lockdown regulations were a gift to the police.

Jack Talbot

Keighley, West Yorkshire

Cheered by Glasgow strike

It was so good to read about the strike by Glasgow cleansing workers during Cop26 (Socialist Worker, 10 November). 

We need more of this sort of action. Let’s hope at least some union leaders learn action can make an impact.

Katie Ryder

On Facebook

Mask slips for Boris Johnson

Pictures of Boris Johnson parading around Hexham general hospital in Northumberland made me furious.

He shows such contempt for the NHS workers and patients in that hospital.

I wish they had thrown him out. 

Vic Robertson

North London

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