Letters: British democracy is sick when an MP is threatened for pro-Israel views

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SIR – How sad that a conscientious, hard-working MP (and competent junior minister) like Mike Freer has been forced out by the mob (“Pro-Israeli Tory minister to quit after death threats”, report, February 1).

Mr Freer has been a steadfast friend of the Jewish community and of Israel ever since he was first elected as MP for Finchley and Golders Green in 2010. He will be missed.

Brian Gedalla
London N3

SIR – What sort of a country have we become when we cannot or will not give effective protection to a Member of Parliament who has been intimidated for a decade over his support for Israel?

MPs are the cornerstone of our democracy. Our failure to confront those who would like to undermine our way of life is simply emboldening them.

Stan Labovitch
Windsor, Berkshire

SIR – Mike Freer is to resign, having been left fearing for his life after repeated threats from Islamic extremists.

Every Saturday the Mayor of London permits hate marches against Jewish people in the capital. The Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are still not proscribed groups, meaning that they are able to operate legally on British soil.

These are just a few outrageous instances of Islamic extremists being let off, despite posing a threat to Britain’s national security. Our leaders must take a tougher stance.

Jonathan Daniel
London NW4

SIR – John Walker’s letter (January 31) is wide of the mark.

No one who criticises – even harshly – the current Israeli government’s war tactics is, on that basis alone, labelled an anti-Semite. That would be ludicrous and, by and large, it simply doesn’t happen.

People are, however, correctly called out on their anti-Semitism when they make grotesque comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany; when they accuse Israel – a state that they reject in its entirety – of deliberately instigating a genocide; or when they focus their ire unrelentingly on Israel’s choices, while saying nothing about the actions of – for instance – Russia, China, Syria, North Korea or Iran.

Sebastian Monblat
Surbiton, Surrey

SIR – On Monday, Hamas launched further rocket strikes against targets in Israel.

Israel is right not to agree to a ceasefire because, unlike many of our politicians, it is not naive enough to believe that Hamas will abide by any agreement.

Philip Roberts
Tarporley, Cheshire

Labour rail regression

SIR – Oh good: a return to the bad old days of British Rail (“Labour to renationalise train operators with no compensation”, report, February 1).

Does this mean we can look forward to filthy trains, hopeless timekeeping and even more hideously expensive tickets? Not to mention strikes at the drop of a hat because a Labour government will always give in to its union paymasters.

Charles Penfold
Ulverston, Cumbria

SIR – Labour has announced plans to renationalise the railways in order to fix what it describes as a “broken system”.

I believe that whichever party pledges to do the same with the many dysfunctional water companies across the country will be on to a massive vote winner. We could then stop the obscenity of directors picking up huge bonuses while their companies continue to foul our rivers and seas.

Douglas M Jacobs
Highworth, Wiltshire

SIR – There appears to be a belief among political commentators that the next election will result in 10 years or more of Labour government. This is mistaken.

The Labour Party has the same views and priorities that have turned people away from the current Government – an over-zealous focus on net zero, significantly increasing the cost of living and destroying people’s livelihoods; support for unrestricted immigration to the detriment of residents’ access to critical services and housing; and an obsession with division by identity, resulting in intolerance and hate. This will not change under Labour; indeed it’s likely to get worse.

The incoming Labour government will not be elected by popular acclaim – it will simply be a side effect of voters turning away from the Conservatives.

The divide between the establishment and the people, exposed by Brexit, still exists. New political groupings will emerge that represent what people actually want from government.

Phil Coutie
Exeter, Devon

Welby’s right to opine

SIR – I strongly disagree with Julia Tingle (Letters, January 31), who believes that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, should not “meddle in politics”.

The Church should be involved in all human activity, which is why its most senior members are given seats in the House of Lords.

However, if the bishops do get involved in politics – as in the case of the Rwanda Bill – they need to be constructive.

Christopher Robson
Crakehall, North Yorkshire

SIR – May I recommend to Jane Moth (Letters, January 31), who resents having to listen to unsatisfactory sermons, a game my father – Bishop Hugh Blackburne – described in his autobiography.

“In the chapel of a certain public school the game of sermon cricket is played by some enthusiasts. It is a simple game but leads to some remarkable conclusions, of which the batsman is totally unaware.

“There are certain refinements for theological experts, but the basic principles are simply these – every time the visiting preacher says ‘I’ a run is scored, every time he mentions ‘God’ a wicket falls.

“Some phenomenal centuries have been scored before a single wicket has fallen.”

John Blackburne
North Pickenham, Norfolk

Flawed pharmacy plan

SIR – I live in a small rural village, where the pharmacy is attached to the GP surgery (Letters, February 1). Under the proposed scheme for pharmacists to take on more responsibilities, will it be in competition with the doctors or working with them?

In other areas, pharmacies do not have enough space to see patients, and having to discuss symptoms in a public space may make one more inclined to confide in the doctor’s receptionist (which many already object to).

We need an all-party committee to work on a long-term plan for the health service. It badly needs reform, not simply patching up

Ann Tomline
Long Wittenham, Oxfordshire

SIR – I’m not sure that outsourcing more services to pharmacies will help.

Previously, when requesting a new prescription from my GP, I would be able to collect it from my local pharmacy 72 hours later. Now it takes between seven and 10 days, as the pharmacy outsources some of its dispensing needs.

Jean Cheesman
Orpington, Kent

SIR – In France, not only do pharmacists carry out the extra duties mentioned in your report (January 31), but they will also inspect mushrooms you have foraged, and advise which ones are non-toxic and safe to eat.

Dr Robert Bruce-Chwatt
Richmond, Surrey

Entitled litterers

SIR – I have picked up litter all my adult life (Letters, February 1).

The sight and smell of it disgusts me. Its presence is a symbol of societal unhappiness, resentment, laziness and the belief that “someone else can sort out this mess”.

Witness a football star jettison chewing gum as he is substituted, or the litter discarded in the stands at Lord’s after a day at the cricket, and your eyes burn.

Sue Leach
Orton, Cumbria

Awkward questions

SIR – It is not just parrots and mynah birds that can be awkwardly loose-lipped (Letters, January 31).

While watching some landscapers planting a new tree near my house, my fiancée’s young son suddenly piped up: “Uncle Chris, how many burglars have you buried in your garden?”

Christopher Ash
Johannesburg, South Africa

How Masters of the Air gets the RAF wrong

Tutor aircraft at the International Bomber Command Centre’s Memorial Spire, Lincoln
Tutor aircraft at the International Bomber Command Centre’s Memorial Spire, Lincoln - Alamy

SIR – The television series made by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, Masters of the Air (What to watch, January 26), depicts the sacrifices borne by the US Air Force in the bomber offensive over Germany in the Second World War.

As with their previous epics – including Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers – they correctly honour the memories of those combatants.

However, there is usually an element of insult towards the British in their work, sometimes unrelated to the story. In Masters of the Air, members of the Royal Air Force are depicted in one small scene as weak and contemptible.

Although it was a way of highlighting the difference between the British and American approaches to the bombing, it ignores the fact that RAF pilots had learnt the inefficiency of daylight attacks and trained to such standards of airmanship and navigation that, certainly by the time that the US Air Force arrived, they could accurately find their targets at night. That is not to say they did not carry out daylight operations as well, and increasingly from 1944.

The series is scarred by this insult to the 55,000 young men of the RAF Bomber Command who lost their lives in both day and night operations, and to those who were wounded, captured and or endured the Long March, or who suffered in other ways. I would be interested to know whether other readers feel the same.

Philip Wiggs
High Salvington, West Sussex

Wrestling with double standards at HMRC

SIR – In January 2023, because of a change in my income, I was due a tax refund, which my accountant promptly applied for (“HMRC backlog”, Letters, February 1). By the time my July tax was due, I was still waiting for my net refund, so paid nothing.

I paid my January 2024 tax last week to avoid a £100 fine for being late. Yet I have not received a penny of interest on my overdue tax refund – or a penalty payment from HMRC for failing to pay the refund.

Jonathan Dixon Smith
Braintree, Essex

SIR – I find it bizarre that self-assessment taxpayers are calling for an extension to the January 31 tax return submission deadline because of difficulty in getting through to an HMRC adviser on the phone (Business, January 31).

The 2022-3 tax year finished on April 5 last year, so they’ve had nearly nine months to submit their returns. 
Grant an extension and I’m sure they’ll find another excuse for not submitting in a timely manner when the next deadline approaches.

Chris Thomas
Reading, Berkshire

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