Sunday, 21 April 2019

Your letters...

People don’t want to leave

Sir, — “At one moment in time nearly three years ago less than half of you voted to leave the EU.

“And however bad it turns out to be, and no matter that what you are about to experience bears not the slightest resemblance to what you were promised, I am going to follow without question my party line to deliver on it.

“Because the advice the minority of you gave me, which I choose to refer to as ‘the will of the people’ (and has now been further upgraded by my superiors to become an ‘instruction’ from the people), I then agreed to turn into a party manifesto promise.

“And although this promise lost my party thousands of votes and did not deliver a majority for governing, and despite the fact that at least five other commitments in the same manifesto have been completely ignored, this one is so sacrosanct that I am going to ignore my sworn duty to represent my constituents, suspend all my critical faculties, make absolutely no judgement whatsoever on the likely impact it will have upon people’s lives and livelihoods and vote for everything I am told to by my party bosses.”

I have read a number of letters to constituents from Henley MP John Howell over the last couple of years, viewed his public comments and watched his few speeches on the subject of Brexit and the above is my summary of the sense behind every one of his statements.

To his credit, Mr Howell is highlighting at the same time a lot of the minutiae of government that thankfully still goes on in the background but in my view he is doing a grave disservice to this community.

I am sure he is making careful political judgements for the sake of his party and its local officials.

But, like most MPs, he cannot see the wood for the trees. If he could, he would be reminding us of the untold wealth that awaits us all once we are freed from the shackles of the EU, the freedoms we shall experience, the sunlit horizons that will open up for every one of us once we are free of the tyrannies of Brussels and its unelected bureaucrats.

But he doesn’t. When did you last hear any Brexit supporter arguing a sound business case for leaving?

I have asked dozens of them. All I get in reply is a mouthful of meaningless soundbites, usually peppered with a sovereignty or two, the apparent threats from immigration, Project Fear, £350million a week. Tired old phrases from a tired and discredited referendum campaign.

We are about to leave the most powerful trading entity in the world, a unique collaborative project by 28 independent bloody-minded and sovereign — yes, sovereign — nations, having been a world leader through the EU in driving a climate-change agenda, improving air quality, water quality, conservation of fishing stocks, promoting workers’ rights, human rights and animal welfare, creating the world’s highest standards in food quality, chemical and pharmaceutical standards, electrical safety, working to ensure the world’s largest corporations pay their due taxes and trade ethically and supporting the 49 poorest nations of the world by charging zero tariffs on imports of everything except arms.

We co-operate with our neighbours to fight terrorism and international crime, to advance scientific and medical research and to counter the dominant traits of the two other largest world entities, America and China.

Not one single item from the list above can the UK effectively achieve on its own. No wonder the argument for leaving has been reduced to a flimsy procedural justification.

And if Mr Howell is serious about carrying out the will of the people, he should check it out: do the people still want to leave or is this just another convenient hollow excuse for propping up a discredited Tory government? — Yours faithfully,

Will Stevens

Oaks Road, Lower Shiplake

Less extreme language

What is happening in Parliament is disappointing enough but what is going on in the streets outside the Palace of Westminster is in some ways more disturbing.

On Thursday morning last week, the BBC caught on camera, while someone was being interviewed, a banner which read, “17.4 million people seething”.

This type of language is highly regrettable and is only being used to try to bully those who have reservations about how this whole Brexit process has been created and pursued into believing that there is some ghastly consequence awaiting us if we don’t comply with the outcome of the referendum.

I know no one who would present any argument against freedom of speech but one of the things that the last two-and-a-half years must surely have taught us is that with freedom of speech must come a very substantial amount of responsibility.

To use the argument of freedom of speech to justify statements such as appeared on the Brexit bus, or the statement regularly made that our dealings with the EU would represent the easiest negotiations ever known, must be wrong and unfair.

This is the same as the way the word betrayal is now regularly used against any notion of not complying with the results of our deeply flawed referendum.

This type of language does not represent the moderation for which this country is famous and those of us in the moderate camp should complain.

I wonder if we could produce a law that made certain types of lying and exaggeration punishable by law or is that idea too extreme? — Yours faithfully,

Professor Dan Remenyi

Kidmore End

You want it both ways

Sir, — Christopher Leeming asks why Leavers should think it acceptable for parliament to vote several times on the same issue within the space of a few days but not acceptable to have a second referendum (Standard, March 29).

The first point to make is that it was not acceptable for Parliament to repeat votes. It was against procedure and precedent, albeit a small part of a general rampage of constitution-busting by a shambolic government and Parliament.

Secondly, this Leaver would be delighted to repeat the original referendum in a similar fashion. If the result second time round changed from Leave to Remain, I would regretfully accept it.

Sadly, that is not what is on offer, only a choice between being shackled to the autocratic EU or merely handcuffed.

I want to be democratically governed by people we have elected and whom we can unelect if we wish. It’s as simple as that.

No xenophobia, no jingoism, no barriers thrown up against free movement, just Love Europe/Hate EU. — Yours faithfully,

Ken Stevens

Red House Drive, Sonning Common

EU is not to be trusted

Sir, — The one question I ask Remainers and which requires a simple “yes” or “no” answer is as follows:

Would they invest their own personal money in an organisation that not once in its history has had its annual accounts approved by auditors? The answers can be illuminating. — Yours faithfully,

David Grainger

Sonning Common

Don’t know what they do

Sir, — Watching the lunatics take charge of the Westminster asylum on Wednesday last week, I was reminded of the words in Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” — Yours faithfully,

Paul Fairweather

Rotherfield Greys

Thank you to the PM

Sir, — While manning the Remain stall in Henley market place a few weeks before the fateful referendum, Theresa May approached me, noticed that I had a “Remain” flag in my buttonhole and remarked that she “should probably get one”, so I gave her mine.

Recent press reports suggest that the intervening months may have taken a very heavy toll on the Prime Minister in attempting to address what seems to have become an almost insoluble set of problems.

Pending the final outcomes, may I take this opportunity to thank Mrs May and her husband for what she has tried to do for our country and to wish her well.

It is amazing that she has tried to continue with her constituency responsibilities during this time. — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road, Henley

Think of our children

Sir, — To suggest that the country has spoken will surely in the years to come be seen as an all-time leap in the dark by the UK.

A referendum of any value must surely be based on accurate information, a detailed plan of action, if necessary, a “plan B” and, most importantly, a set of logistics identifying priorities.

Misinformation, political soundbites and subjective inventions by a handful of politicians will be seen as nothing short of the blind leading the blind.

Two years ago, political comments and broadcasts promoted a kneejerk reaction formed through a fog of ignorance which distorted many of the issues.

If this is not the case, why after two years is the Government still anguishing over the principles, never mind the details?

The complexity of what will be gained and what will be lost once we have left the EU should have taken place by cross-party debates throughout the UK with invited representatives from every profession.

Instead we were limited to commentaries by various politicians whose dislike of the EU had been festering for years.

There is now a whole vocabulary of words and references which didn’t exist when the referendum took place. Making decisions of such importance to our country’s future requires crystal clear vision, not peering into a crystal ball!

We are perfectly enacting a Rumsfeldism: “We don’t know what we don’t know.”

This is not the way to decide on such an important action for the young, for the future, for international relations, for the diversity of cultures, for unified protection and, finally, for the vast collective European experience; hard won wisdom, our legacy for our children who will be internationalists no matter what but, boy, oh boy (girl, oh girl), are we making it difficult for them? — Yours faithfully,

Clive Duncan

Station Road, Shiplake

We voted for independence

Sir, — Edward G Hallett makes a number of assertions that are both inaccurate and exaggerated (Standard, March 29).

I and millions of others voted for the UK to leave the EU in the referendum, not because we were xenophobes, as Mr Hallett implies, but because we wanted our country to be independent once more and not an anonymous region of a European super-state.

We want to be rid of the EU, not the geographic entity of Europe with its rich cultural diversity.

Brexit is not flawed in itself but is in trouble because the process has been irreparably botched either by design or incompetence or both.

However, a parliament, government or executive that deliberately sets itself against the majority of the electorate certainly is flawed and dangerously so.

Cancelling Article 50 will not bring a solution to this mess, as Mr Hallett believes.

Disposing of such an important piece of legislation voted for by a majority of MPs would not only be highly divisive but would set a very damaging precedent for our democracy.

Unfortunately, such is the single-minded stupidity of our legislators, I believe this is what is about to happen.

Finally, Mr Hallett seeks to compare Brexit with the period when Britain supported the slave trade. Such a claim is so risible it is a parody of the worst insults Remainers fling against the Leavers. — Yours faithfully,

Nick Brazil


Changing our minds

People can all change our minds, so can MPs. — Yours faithfully,

Neil Parsley

Mount View Court, Henley

School needs fairness

Sir, — I refer to your front page story about Gillotts School in Henley (Standard, March 29).

I have every sympathy with headteacher Catharine Darnton and the plight of the school and have been helping this and other schools in the constituency over a long period.

For example, less than two years ago, Catharine and Rick Holroyd, the then head of Langtree School in Woodcote, wrote as follows in the Henley Standard: “John Howell has certainly put great effort into the task of improving funding for education.

“We appreciate what he has done and the value of what he has delivered on behalf of schools.”

I believe that it was as a result of that effort and of working together that we got the Government to agree to fund the increased costs of pensions and to provide £508 million over two years for the rise in teachers’ pay.

At the Budget, the Government announced an extra £400 million for capital projects in schools and £250 million to cover the costs of making provision for children and young people with the most complex special educational needs and disabilities.

This came about partly as a result of the lobbying we had undertaken.

It may be that Gillotts is having difficulty accessing the capital funding because of the requirement that it should go first to schools in disadvantaged areas.

I am sure no one would wish to deprive such schools of this money. However, I am lobbying the Department of Education to argue that this approach is unfair and discriminates against schools in less deprived areas, such as Gillotts, whatever the state of the buildings.

I think it is important to work with the school to campaign for fair treatment which I am happy to continue doing. — Yours faithfully,

John Howell

MP for Henley, House of Commons

March for Life on way

Sir, — Extinction Rebellion’s Earth March for Life will arrive in Henley on Tuesday.

It is not a huge band at the moment — dozens rather than hundreds.

The marchers are heading for London to join an action, starting on Monday, April 15, that aims to get the Government to take the necessary immediate action on climate change that the science demands.

The very conservative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has set challenging goals of emission reduction over the next decade if the world is to stand a chance of restricting global temperature rise to 1.5C.

The necessary changes are beyond what can be achieved by individuals and beyond the power of market forces.

Extinction Rebellion is not a political movement, it attracts members from all persuasions, all ages, from striking schoolchildren to grandparents, from dreadlocked activists to little old ladies.

All recognise the existential threat that climate change poses and all demand that the precautionary principle is applied and mitigating action is taken immediately.

For more information, email — Yours faithfully,

Ian Petrie

Vicarage Road, Henley

Keeping the streets clean

Sir, — Henley Residents Group’s candidates for the South Oxfordshire District Council elections took part in the Henley community litter-pick on Saturday.

Since HRG took control of Henley Town Council we have negotiated with Grundon and the district council to take business waste off the streets of Henley in the evenings.

Grundon started an additional morning collection at no cost to the council or businesses.

The town council has also reinstated the three deep cleans of our streets and the first one this year will take place this month.

Two of these are paid for by the town council and the third is a six-day deep clean by the district council with the town council deciding which areas to pay attention to.

We believe that it is important for residents and visitors to see our town in the best possible light so that we maintain a thriving community and successful businesses. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak (Henley Residents Group)

Henley Town Council, Elizabeth Road, Henley

Still waiting for response

Sir, — A couple of weeks ago, you were kind enough to publish my letter on trucks and emissions.

In it, I appealed to town councillor Stefan Gawrysiak, Dave McEwen, of Henley in Transition, and others to get in touch (through your good auspices) and find out the facts about trucks, what they do and how.

My aim? To inform and assist them in making positive, progressive decisions on things like weight limits, clean air zones and future transport policies for Henley.

As a consultant to the commercial vehicle industry for more than 20 years, I would be delighted to help.

To date, I haven’t heard a word. In the hope that our legislators truly want to understand the issues before making decisions that will affect us all, my offer stands. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Symons

ICE Marketing, Newtown Road, Henley

Our loss, your gain

Sir (if I may), — So Henley residents are to be deprived of the commitment and dedication of Councillor Lorraine Hillier, someone who has selflessly devoted herself to the town for nearly 20 years (Standard, March 29).

How come? Well the powers-that-be in Watlington have decided they won’t support her. Why Watlington? That’s the control centre for Henley Conservatives, believe it or not.

Why? Certainly not misogyny. For standing up for herself and resisting bullying? Maybe. Strange... even stranger since we all know that she is the current chairman of South Oxfordshire District Council and Henley’s Tory electioneers boast of “having influence” at district level. Not any longer, I suspect.

Fortunately, every cloud has a silver lining and she is going to stand for election in Woodcote.

Now the electors of Woodcote, Nettlebed et environs are in for a treat.

They have a superb candidate to vote for at the local elections next month, someone who will serve them conscientiously and, unusually for most Conservatives, with a track record of attending meetings and who actually lives in the parish.

Fortunately for Henley residents, she will continue to run her Hot Gossip café/meeting place on Friday Street for Henley’s intelligentsia (and a few journalists, I’m told).

Thank you, Lorraine, from those of us who care about Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Dick Fletcher


Car club idea is welcome

Sir, — What a splendid idea Dave McEwen’s proposed car club would be for Henley (Standard, March 29)

“Pay-as-you-go” electric cars would surely encourage some town residents to relinquish their own cars.

Henley clearly has a parking and air pollution problem so this would be a small start in the right direction, especially if funded by the plethora of town developers.

Let’s hope the idea gets moving forward. — Yours faithfully,

Richard Pinches


I know from experience

In response to your correspondent Paul Clayden (Standard, March 22), it is obvious that he hasn’t lived in Henley that long.

I’ve lived and worked in and around Henley all my life and when we had a roundabout in the middle of town and two-way traffic in Market Place, the traffic flowed easily.

As for Falaise Square, you would still have market days but it would be bigger and better.

As for standing for the council, I have put my name forward to join. — Yours faithfully,

Ian Clark

Cromwell Road, Henley

Talking rubbish...

Sir, — Upon reading Paul Sargeantson’s letter (Standard, March 29), I laughed out loud.

Partly at the realisation that there are still more individuals who consider that it is rational to alleviate a situation by removing the facilities that are provided to prevent that situation from occurring in the first place and partly because of the deliciously ironic content of Mr Sargeantson’s letter (more of which later).

The fact that an abandoned wheelie bin was used as a depository for rubbish is conclusive proof that litter bins work. The bin was overflowing due to the fact that this was an “unofficial” bin, which was never emptied.

It is telling that Mr Sargeantson was sufficiently moved to take a photograph of this bin but insufficiently moved to make a phone call to have it removed, preferring instead to leave that to a “public-spirited person”.

Ironically, the person in question was me. Biffa’s records will confirm that I first notified them of this issue on February 21.

When the matter had not been resolved within their stated timescales, I contacted them again to be told that their records showed that the bin had been removed but they would now treat it as a priority.

When the bin blew over in strong winds a few days later, I contacted Biffa again and the bin was removed the next day.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Sargeantson for his public recognition of my efforts and those of Biffa.

On the matter of the deplorable state of the verges of Howe Hill, I quite agree!

Howe Hill is a particularly dangerous road, punctuated by blind corners and darkened by overhanging trees. It is far too dangerous for residents to collect litter themselves, so for several years now (more irony, I’m afraid) I have taken it upon myself to contact Biffa at the start of each financial year, when funds will be available, to arrange for the litter to be collected from the verges.

I then pester Biffa until the collection has been completed. I will be doing this again within the next few weeks.

Finally, I am gratified that when Mr Sargeantson complained about overflowing litter bins at the M40 junction at Lewknor, the council’s response was to provide more bins. This shows that council staff are rational thinkers and that they treat Mr Sargeantson’s ridiculous suggestions with the contempt that they deserve. — Yours faithfully,

Nick Edwards

Howe Hill, Watlington

Trouble with train ticket

Sir, — The attitude of Great Western Railway barrier staff to a Trainline booking is belligerent. I quote: “Don’t blame me if you buy your tickets from Trainline.”

However, the Trainline helpline does not connect you to a human being for this type of situation, it merely pushes you around a series of recorded messages, mostly advertising its website.

The Reading GWR barrier staff were totally dismissive of my problem and sent me to their ticket office.

I finally had to politely insist that the barrier staff explain the problem to their ticket staff.

However, the ticket staff disagreed on a solution. This coming and going took over 15 minutes, so I missed my 7.34am train, which Trainline says is off-peak but GWR barrier staff disagree.

I had tried — yet again — to use GWR’s online ticket service the previous night but the system refused to accept my password, the one I have used with GWR for the past four years. It then took over 20 minutes to send me a new password.

That is why I resorted to using the Trainline online service.

Trainline’s customer relations team confirmed my ticket was valid and shouldn’t have been refused, saying that GWR concurred and was investigating.

Have any other readers had a similar experience?

Incidentally, the GWR message with a new password arrived at 8.22pm despite being sent at 8.07pm. Maybe they send their replies by train! — Yours faithfully,

Peter Woolsey

Binfield Heath

I don’t feel reassured

Sir, — Pastor Roger Coles’s Thought for the Week (Standard, March 29) is meant to be reassuring in the light of his belief that God values and sustains us all.

However, his backing quotation from Matthew recording Jesus as saying, “Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow or reap… yet your heavenly Father feeds them” is worrying.

Last year, I witnessed a red kite swoop down on a pigeon in my garden, pecking it to death and eating it.

I doubt whether the pigeon felt any reassurance of being valued by God, although the kite may well have done. — Yours faithfully,

Douglas Kedge

Lea Road, Sonning Common

Happy to stay here

Editor, — Don’t laugh, I’ve been reminiscing. I’m showing my age!

I’ve lived in Gainsborough Road, Henley, for 42 years.

In the square where I lived were 16 children. Can you imagine it? It was a lovely place to live. We all walked to school together. You can imagine the chatter that went on and everyone was happy.

I could once name all the people in the houses from the top to the bottom of the road. Of course all the children have now grown up and some have grandchildren.

It hasn’t changed that much really. It can be quite confusing sometimes, especially if you don’t know your way around, as it’s Gainsborough Road, Gainsborough Hill and Gainsborough Crescent, but it’s still where I want to be. — Yours faithfully,

Name and address supplied

Invest in our sports clubs

Sir, — Having been born and brought up in Henley, I am well aware of the wonderful sporting facilities that we have.

I am chairman of the Henley Town Football Club, one of two football clubs in the town, the other being Henley AFC for the under-18s.

At a time when mental health is a regular news story, I am a firm believer that exercise improves both physical and mental health. I have lived in Henley all my life and have dedicated my energy to expanding sporting facilities in the town.

I believe we should work towards further increasing these facilities for all sports for people that want to play them either competitively or just for the social buzz and wellbeing that sport can bring.

It is now time to look at all the sporting offers in Henley to find out what they need so that we can future-proof them.

This is especially the case when we are talking about new housing projects which could further increase our population, especially if they involve (as they must) more social and affordable rental homes in Henley. — Yours faithfully,

John Hooper

Prospective Henley Town Council candidate (Henley Residents Group), Henley

Lucky coin toss for team

Sir, — What an interesting photograph of the Henley YMCA team in 1949 that Tony Taylor sent you (Standard, March 29). It is one I do not recall seeing before.

I can name two more of those who appear in it. The goalkeeper is “Taffy” Mayers, who also played for Trinity Hall and Henley Town Reserves, and third from the left in the middle row is Jack Feesey, a Town stalwart for many seasons.

Although one would like to see the picture magnified, the cup is almost certainly the Henley Town and Comrades Cup, which the YMCA won in 1949.

Their team in the final was: D J Mayers; F Doust; G Francis; A Moring; J Feesey; I Scott; J Tarry; G Clinch; W Hill; F Taylor; R Francis.

Curiously, only 10 players appear in the photo.

YMCA beat Nettlebed 2-1 in the final and this was their fourth game in a week. In the semi-final, they drew 5-5 with Henley Town Reserves.

The replay soon followed but ended 1-1 after extra time with the YMCA proceeding to the final on the toss of a coin. — Yours faithfully,

J F Bailey

St Andrew’s Road, Henley

From prefects to players

Sir, — With reference to the photograph of the Henley YMCA team of 1949, here are some names.

Middle row: Ian Scott (second from left); George Francis (far right). Front row: John Tarry (far left), Reg Franis (far right).

Ian Scott and John Tarry were Henley Grammar School prefects in 1948. — Yours faithfully,

Tony Bloomfield

Missing footballer

Sir, — The photograph of the 1949 Henley YMC football team showed only 10 members of the side.

What happened to the missing player? An April Fool’s joke perhaps? — Yours faithfully,

D W Hermon

Northfield End, Henley

Wrong kind of yolk

Sir, — With reference to Maureen Idowu’s review of Handel’s Messiah by the Henley Choral Society (Standard, March 29), yoke, yolk. Joke, egg (yolk?) on face! — Yours faithfully,

Ian Tiffin

Northfield End, Henley

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