Sir, — One day recently, I noticed a small white butterfly in the garden.
It was flitting around for a short while and then landed on a plant in the rockery.
It stayed there long enough for me to go and get my camera and remained there long enough for me to take a couple of frames.
I then checked to find that it was the small white. This is supposed to be quite common (no pun intended) but I cannot recall seeing one before, just many cabbage whites.
If I am wrong about this, I am sure another reader will put me right. — Yours faithfully,
Morris millinery to rival regatta hats
Sir, — On the Sunday before last there was a display of Morris dancing in Falaise Square, Henley.
The colourful millinery of some of the dancers was a notable part of this enjoyable event. It also provided some stiff competition for the hats to be worn by people attending the regatta later in the summer! — Yours faithfully,
Milton Close, Henley
We’re better off in the EU
Sir, — Several weeks ago a reader wrote suggesting that the level of debate needs to be raised in terms of the EU referendum. I totally agree.
However, the onus is still on the Leave campaign as challengers to the status quo to describe how the overall welfare of the British people will be improved if we were to leave the EU.
Having seemingly lost the economic argument in the face of the Bank of England, the Treasury, the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Â Co-operation and Development, the Institute of Financial Studies, the London School of Economics and Oxford Economics, to name just a few, the Leave side seem to have moved on to more conceptual territory like democracy and sovereignty.
Now I’m all for rational, passionate argument but I don’t get a lot of the “Braveheart” stuff that appears on your pages. I sometimes think that some of your letter writers live in some sort of parallel universe. There seems to be so much false rage and a constant desire to go for the man, not the message (as in the attacks on Cameron and Obama).
I don’t recognise a UK where we as citizens are apparently repressed by malign forces, our every action seemingly directed and governed by Brussels and Berlin.
Moreover, having thought the overall level of debate could not get any lower, we had Boris Johnson portraying the EU as some kind of Nazi conspiracy.
My right to vote coincided with the UK entering what was the EC in 1973 and I voted in the first referendum. If I look back at Europe and how it has changed for the better, it is extraordinary.
Spain and Portugal were dictatorships, Greece was run by the generals, Eastern Europe and the Baltic states were behind the iron curtain and dominated by the Soviet Union. This was just five years after the Russians brutally put down the Czech Spring with tanks. Germany was divided, the UK was economically the “sick man of Europe” and we were blighted by the troubles in Northern Ireland.
Some 40 years later the Berlin Wall has fallen and liberal democracy has taken hold across all the ex-Soviet client states and the Mediterranean dictatorships. Many of the ex-Warsaw Pact countries are also in NATO.
The UK economically stands tall and, thanks to the Good Friday agreement and the efforts of the Irish Government, Protestants and Catholics share political power in Northern Ireland.
Now I’m not putting this down to the EC or EU, but a common denominator is that all the new democracies wanted to be part of the EU and saw membership as part of the glue for delivering a better future. A key part of this was economic liberalism and the free movement of capital and people.
I, too, value the right to work and live in the rest of Europe and consider it a small price to pool some small element of UK sovereignty to maintain the economic and social benefits of being in the EU.
However, listening to the Leave side you would think the UK was some democratic paragon only held back by the “faceless bureaucrats of Brussels” when in truth it’s qualified and all of our own making.
I have lived in Henley for 30 years but have never voted Conservative in my life. My vote in parliamentary elections is, like many others, wasted because of the first past the post system.
As a result of fixed term parliaments and with David Cameron already announcing he will stand down, the next (Conservative) prime minister will be decided upon by just the 150,000 members of the Conservative Party. He or she will have huge executive power and the patronage to be able to appoint the Cabinet, all government ministers and oversee our own “faceless bureaucrats” in Whitehall.
If my ability to influence the House of Commons is close to zero at least the process for the House of Lords is more honest. There isn’t one as it’s totally non-elected. Ditto the UK’s head of state, which is hereditary. Our senior judges are appointed by the head of state based on advice from the Prime Minister who in turn receives recommendations from a selection committee.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the UK’s representative democracy is a sham but my ability to actually influence our politicians and lawmakers is miniscule.
So, please, if we are going to have a debate about “wanting our country back” let’s have it in the context that the vast majority of people in the UK in truth individually have very little ability to affect the political outcome regardless of the existence of the EU.
A year ago at the last parliamentary elections, the EU ranked only seventh, according to a YouGov poll, as the biggest issues facing the county among the UK electorate. It was ranked much lower in terms of how it was perceived to affect people and their families.
It is therefore ironic that the EU referendum is ultimately a testament to the fact that the UK’s sovereignty is alive and well and is giving people like me the very rare democratic opportunity to have a meaningful vote.
However, it is on a subject that if it was not for the “civil war” in the Conservative party, we would not be having and the UK public did not particularly want.
Nevertheless, I will be more than happy to be voting to remain. — Yours faithfully,
Vote with the head, not heart
Sir, — On May 15 a bomb aimer’s hesitation caused his bombs to straddle the hospital where my mother was giving birth to me. This was in Manchester in 1941.
For me the Second World War was a fear of bombs and food rationing.
Later, I learned French and German and studied at INSEAD, the business school for the world.
I saw the Soviet “May Day” military parade in East Berlin and also watched Ted Heath get turned down by Charles de Gaulle.
The UK should have been a leader of the EEC from 1963. Sadly, we missed a golden opportunity to become an EU leader.
So I left for America, appreciating the benefits of US Marshall Aid and Rotary scholarships. I met many refugees from Soviet satellites and vowed to try to assist the Baltic States if they ever became independent. Thanks to President Reagan and President Gorbachev, they did eventually.
As a serial entrepreneur, in America and throughout Europe, my experience taught me the benefits of being in the European market in terms of economic growth combined with the safety of NATO and US investment.
Later, I assisted firms in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to prepare commercially to join the European Community.
Many readers now benefit from Skype, an Estonian invention, and from many of the E- and M-government services first developed and pioneered in the tiny country of Estonia.
My practical entrepreneurial experiences of launching firms in France, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Estonia and the UK have demonstrated to me the many benefits to England from being a member of the European Union.
The UK should strive to improve the democratic integrity of the European Commission for all EU members by becoming a more effective EU team leader in future.
The English have major advantages. Almost all educated EU chief executives speak our language, as do most of the European Commission executives. Most UK leaders are respected for their educated democratic reasonableness.
Those who are rude and demonstrate their ignorance of the economic facts of life, such as Nigel Farage and, more recently, Boris Johnson, are recognised for their business ignorance and refusal to accept the reality of EU and UK economic life.
The UK exports 44 per cent of everything we produce to the European Union. To leave would create economic chaos for us and for our major trading partners. They would buy elsewhere.
The majority of successful English chief executives, especially those with large labour forces, have repeatedly said they would have to fire many of their staff. Investors worldwide would sell shares in English firms because they would anticipate the economic facts of life.
Our strongest ally, America, would cease to invest in British-based firms. China would also reduce its investment.
Putin would feel encouraged to cause even more havoc, possibly in Latvia as well as Ukraine. Above all, we would lose our influence and no longer be seen as a serious trading partner. Our financial services industry would lose its economic edge and wither.Too many of the “vote no” leaders are social commentators such as Boris Johnson, a former editor of the Spectator who still views the world as a classical scholar without the practical experience of being a successful entrepreneur or businessman and with a tendency to make statements that are just wrong.These people rely on emotional arguments. Frequently, their arguments are not supported by economic facts.
If we vote to leave the European Union it will be a slow disaster for our children and grandchildren as we descend from being Great Britain to becoming Little England.It is essential that your readers consider the very serious long-term effects of their vote on June 23.It is critical to England’s long-term future that we vote “yes” to stay in the EU. We need to and we can become an effective and, eventually, leading member of the European Union, especially if we accept our future is to lead Europe, not to leave it.This can only be done by using our unique British strengths as well as benefiting from helpful American support. — Yours faithfully,
Leaving won’t change world
Sir, — Several readers responded to my recent letter under the false impression that I thought the EU debate was purely economic. A regular reader of this page would know that some prefer letters to be less windy, hence my choice to limit my reasoning to only one aspect of the upcoming choice.
With the editor’s consent, I wish to address one of the other aspects, namely that of sovereignty, or our right to self-determination.
In recent weeks, this term has been bandied around loosely as some generalised code word — often, in my experience, without any real understanding of what it means.
I pose this question to people as a small test of their understanding of what sovereignty means. Does the UK or America have more sovereignty?
Given the rhetoric about the EU undermining the UK’s freedom of self-determination, most will say America has more. This is not the case.
The problem is America has a written constitution which all their laws must abide by. No one can be unaware of issues with gun control in America.
This problem is down to the constitution removing the ability of any one party to change a contentious issue, as we did after Dunblane.
If the EU chose to foist upon us the right to bear arms, I would be on the other side of this debate, though in the last 40 years the EU has limited itself to cleaner air, cleaner water, cleaner beaches, healthier food, less smoking, cleaner cars, cheaper phone calls and so on.
To many supporting Brexit, the code word means someone foreign telling us what to do and they simply don’t like the notion of that.
As a nation, we choose to pool sovereignty with other nations for gains in power and influence conferred on many states acting in unison. I hear no complaints about membership of Nato, the IMF or the UN.
With regard to NATO, our obligation is to fight to defend member nations with no guarantee that it would be a British officer giving the orders.
I am thus confused by anyone who gets angry about a principle but then only applies that anger in one direction (something for the younger readers there).
With specific regard to the EU, there is a charge of intrusive and overbearing regulation. That is what I understand the term sovereignty refers to when thrown about.
I do not deny this has happened but I am surprised that not one person I have spoken to, who intends to vote out, can name one piece of legislation as a reference.
Boris Johnson makes fun of a piece of EU legislation regarding teabags, mocking its absurdity. Taken in isolation, this seem fun. Unfortunately, the re-use of an animal products directive was drafted by the British government following our problems with BSE. This is where generalisers find teabag-type holes appearing in their arguments.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers estimates that leaving the EU would remove seven per cent of regulations, leaving 93 per cent in place. Without a trade deal, our exported cars to the EU (53 per cent of car exports) would cost on average £2,190 more.
Good, solid research and publication of these pernicious regulations would have made the Leave campaign’s argument more plausible. Unfortunately, the absence of this level of detail gives a possible assumption that their case is not as substantial as their headline statements would make out. Either that or there has been a profound lack of preparation, which is equally shameful.
What surprises me most is that, given 20-odd years to prepare for this moment, the Leave campaign seems woefully unready for this debate. Bluster and unpreparedness are not what I would term successful models of political leadership.
If at heart you believe the EU is to blame for all the ills we are struggling with, then whatever the result of this referendum, you will find yourself disappointed.
We live in a more regulated world — the information age and globalisation have seen to that. Leaving the EU would not change the world and it would undo some of our economic success without affecting our sovereignty very much at all and if we end up like Norway, we will have lost, not gained the right to self-determination. — Yours faithfully,
Greys Hill, Henley
Cars show the way to go
Sir, — I am following the EU referendum debate on your letters page with great interest.
We have such apocalyptic statements from both sides, particularly from David Cameron.
I have heard many comments, particularly about difficulties getting a trade deal, as if European countries would refuse to trade with us.
The Remain side like to include the whole 27 members of the EU in order to rationalise our trade as being only five per cent, which is nonsense.
Most of our trade is with Germany, France and Italy, the biggest of the EU countries and the ones with the most clout.
The Remain campaign seem to like using Norway and Switzerland as examples of our bargaining power. These are tiny economies (some eight million people each) compared with the UK population of around 65 million. It would not be in France and Germany’s interest to erect trade barriers.
I conduct a personal poll every time I go to a car park. I have checked out car parks from Aylesbury to Reading, obviously including Henley and the local market towns.
I group the parked cars into makes such as Mercedes, BMW, VW, Audi and Porsche and “others”. If I then also include Fiat, Renault and CitroÃ«n there are not many “others”, no matter which car park I find myself in.
You don’t even need to note anything down on paper — it is so obviously overwhelmingly German, French and Italian-dominated manufacturers who outweigh others (about six to one).
Are these European car giants going to allow their governments to preclude them from selling to one of their closest and biggest markets by putting up trade barriers? Not a chance.
I will be genuinely interested if any of your readers can come to a different conclusion by carrying out their own surveys. — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — Redevelopment of the old Dog pub on Peppard Common shows a degree of impatience.
With the third Reading bridge now guaranteed and the B481 through Sonning Common inevitably becoming Reading’s eastern escape route northwards to Oxford, Peppard Common — with its two pubs straddling the road and ample common land parking space — could be a gold mine of passing trade.
Once a toll bridge has been built across the deep valley between Sonning Common and Peppard Common (to help six-axled, 44-tonne heavy goods vehicles avoid the dangerous Stony Bottom slalom) just think of the revenue that would be generated.
The only service station in South Oxfordshire could be built on the common, with separate pubs for north and southbound traffic and a beautiful peaceful lorry park for drivers to relax in while their tachographs recharge themselves, or even catch the local “park & ride” bus into Reading for a bit of shopping.
The pubs could even provide interpreters and accept Euros, if that isn’t already our national currency by then.
Additionally, with our B481 being reclassified as the A481 (which it was before) and with raised speed limits, we might even get the road widened to HGV width and the potholes filled — but don’t hold your breath on that one. — Yours faithfully,
Kennylands Road, Sonning Common
Housing plan to be proud of
Sir, — After four years of hard work by the neighbourhood development plan working party and extensive community participation, the independent examiner has recommended to South Oxfordshire District Council that the Sonning Common neighbourhood plan should proceed to referendum, subject to some proposed modifications. This is excellent news indeed.
The proposed modifications are generally ones of detail, rather than of substance, and are designed to improve the clarity of the plan and to avoid any confusion.
The examiner has stated that the plan-making process was extremely well publicised and that the plan-makers went well beyond legislative requirements to actively engage with local people.
This has resulted in a neighbourhood plan that reflects the views of local people after a comprehensive and robust consultation process.
The next step is for the working party to review the proposed modifications and discuss amendments with the district council. The plan will then be updated prior to going to a referendum on a date to be determined in due course. — Yours faithfully,
Member of the Sonning Common neighbourhood development plan working party
Up in smoke ...literally
Sir, — You report that Henley’s new Deputy Mayor Will Hamilton wants to start a £10,000 fund for the summer fireworks which, he says, are “a great town spectacle, inclusive for everyone in the town and enjoyed by many” (Standard, May 13).
The trouble is, they are not enjoyed by animals, which are terrified by the noise and suffer considerable stress. Does it really make sense to spend all that money on something which literally goes up in smoke? There must be many more worthy local causes that could do with such funding. I have had occasion to write to you more than once on this topic but obviously to little effect.
A few weeks ago you published a letter by Margaret Dewdney supporting a national campaign for a change in the law governing the use of fireworks by the general public.
I am sure she will not object to my repeating her email address here (maggieÂ firstname.lastname@example.org) for those who wish for further information on how to support the campaign.
I hope Councillor Hamilton will take note of the considerable opposition to fireworks now existing among pet owners and animal lovers. — Yours faithfully,
Hamilton Road, Wargrave
Better use of money
Sir, — Isn’t it odd that there is a group spending so much energy trying to raise money for the Henley summer fireworks that will literally be sent up in smoke when on the next page there is an amazing story of a young girl taking on a climbing challenge to raise money for cancer research, having gone through terrible medical problems (Standard, May 20)?
How about all the money raised so far for the fireworks, which by the way not everyone enjoys, could go to Beth Staley’s fund and therefore be used to benefit everyone? — Yours faithfully,
Hamilton Road, Wargrave
Why should we lose out?
Sir, — We were dismayed to read your article regarding a half-hourly service for Henley rail users instead of the current service of every 45 minutes (Standard, May 20).
It should be clearly understood that this change can only be made to the disadvantage of Wargrave rail users, whose off-peak services will be cut by half to benefit Henley users.
Worse still, at a meeting in Wargrave with Great Western Railway representatives, it was made clear by them that this proposal would be adopted without consultation with the affected parties, i.e. the train users of Wargrave.
The reality for us is that only every other train will stop at Wargrave.
We are regular users of Wargrave station, so while Henley has a marginally improved service the change will have a significant effect on the services we currently enjoy.
Rest assured that while GWR continues to act without consultation, this change will be resisted by us at every level and for good reason. — Yours faithfully,
Austin O’Malley and Dr Felicity O’Malley
Watermans Way, Wargrave
No need for change
Sir, — Trains on the Henley-Shiplake-Wargrave-Twyford branch line have for years trundled along, taking generally 12 minutes to stop three times and to provide (at Twyford) connections to the main London-Oxford line — a largely satisfactory service.
Now Great Western Railway is proposing — incoherently and without decent consultation — to “improve” the service by putting on a few more trains in the “off-peak” period but every second train would pass Wargrave without stopping, so that Wargrave rail users (who are as numerous as Shiplake’s) would be scheduled with a train only hourly instead of every 45 minutes as at present.
GWR is handling this incompetently in the following respects:
1. It has failed to define exactly what it means by “off-peak” in this context.
2. It has failed to present a sample timetable for its proposed changes, whose details would be important, not least in terms of connectivity to main line trains at Twyford.
3. GWR would incur extra costs by running more off-peak trains but it has failed to present passenger user figures to justify this.
As a regular off-peak traveller between Wargrave and Twyford between 10am and 4pm, I know that these trains are generally never overburdened.
In conclusion, unless GWR comes up with convincing evidence of the need for change, it should stop messing about unnecessarily with our branch line service. — Yours faithfully,
Henley Road, Wargrave
Will we be consulted?
Sir, — The tone of your article about more frequent train services on the Henley-Twyford branch line was that these changes are welcomed by users.
They are not welcomed by Wargrave users who will have a significantly worse hourly service for much of the day.
Although these changes have been mooted for some time, they have not been widely publicised.
It appears GWR will make the timetable changes without making any serious effort to consider the impact on all their customers.
No doubt GWR has consulted its managing director Mark Hopwood, who happens to live in Henley, but there has been no formal consultation with Wargrave users. There are no details yet of how the timetable will be altered. Will GWR consult with all users before deciding how to implement the more frequent service?
It was originally reported that the Wargrave service would be half-hourly once the line was electrified but GWR has not mentioned this recently. Will Mr Hopwood commit to restoring an equal service for all users when the branch line electrification is complete? — Yours faithfully,
Sir. — Further to your article about the proposed reduced off-peak service for Wargrave users, I think its selfish “ra ra for Henley users and stuff the rest” tone was banal at best.
The branch line runs relatively well at present even with decrepid rolling stock and most of the delays in journeys to London come from the signalling on the main line.
I don’t see the point in GWR’s proposed timetable changes. especially after no consultation and with little additional benefit even to Henley users.
GWR should focus on its relationship with Network Rail for the electrification planning and much delayed roll-out and leave the branch line alone until the electrification of it goes ahead.
The existing rolling stock needs nursing to its replacement date as well and these, plus trying to run the western railway on time (!), should be more than enough to keep GWR executives busy without meddling where not needed. — Yours faithfully,
High Street, Wargrave
Children are credit to Boris
Sir, — When Boris Johnson was my MP, he and his good lady threw an open-house event for local party members at the Johnson farm near Thame.
I joined a bus party and after arrival waited expectantly for my MP to appear.
After some considerable time he did appear, saw me from a middle distance, looked me up and down, clearly determined I was not on his list of recognised influencers so turned right in pursuit of worthier souls who presumably were. I was, however, keen to establish some kind of personal contact so wandered around and soon discovered several young members of Boris’s family in conversation with friends behind my tour bus.
My takeaway from that day several years ago now was that I would most heartily commend Mr and Mrs Johnson on the outstanding worldliness, lack of affectation, pleasantness and maturity of their offspring. I feel so grateful to this day for their welcome.
I chose not to bore them with any mention of the slight hiccup that had occurred earlier... — Yours faithfully,