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Opinion: General election, freedom of speech, taxing the rich, catapult laws and smoking among topics tackled in letters to the KentOnline editor

Our readers from across the county give their weekly take on the biggest issues impacting Kent and beyond.

Some letters refer to past correspondence which can be found by clicking here. Join the debate by emailing letters@thekmgroup.co.uk

‘First past the post systematically sidelines the voices of millions from the national conversation’
‘First past the post systematically sidelines the voices of millions from the national conversation’

Elections are about ideas, not individuals

Thanks to the desire of the media to concentrate on personalities, voters have come to treat general elections as being about individuals, rather than ideas, of Johnson versus Corbyn, and Starmer versus Sunak, rather than socialism versus conservatism.

Unlike the USA we have a parliamentary system of government, not a presidential one. The Prime Minister is not our head of state, as that role is filled by the monarch. The electorate should be voting on the policies of the parties they choose to support, not on the ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ person who currently holds the party leadership. Even more fundamentally they should decide on whether they support the concept of the state being the arbiter of their destiny, or that the wishes of individuals should be the most important consideration.

Exception must be made for wartime leaders such as Lloyd George and Churchill, but the Conservatives have shown that individual leaders, such as Liz Truss, can be defenestrated in an instant, and the same applies to any elected figure such as Starmer, or Sunak.

In 20 years’ time the vast majority of those who now figure so prominently in politics will be little more than footnotes but the direction the country takes will affect everyone for generations.

Colin Bullen

Let us choose ‘none of the above’

Having the right to vote is important, we shouldn’t take it for granted.

However, turnout is often low. My vote has had little value as I live in an area that has always had a safe seat. Many people in similar situations don’t vote because they know their vote will have no impact.

Many potential voters don’t/won’t vote because they are disillusioned with all parties, but there are also many who are the ‘can’t be bothereds’.

I share the view that there should be a box for None of the Above. If that was counted up there would be more actual evidence of discontent with our political system, which needs revising.

Lesley Flint

Pouring scorn on others’ opinions

John Cooper does not seem to grasp that my assertion that a great number of people are sleepwalking into a stealth taxing Labour government is just an opinion.

It is no more insulting than back in 2016 during the Brexit referendum, many of those campaigning to remain scornfully telling leave voters they didn’t know what they were voting for and they continued with that scorn for many years after they lost. Was John Cooper one of those?

As for him accusing me of scaremongering about the extension of congestion charging because he says it isn’t based on a shred of evidence. That accusation is patently wrong because congestion charging in places outside of London is already occurring.

He closes by saying that if I have any evidence about Labour’s plans, I have a ‘duty’ to tell other voters about them.

It is difficult to ignore the arrogance contained in that statement, but I am not privy to what a potential future Labour government is planning to do. I just believe that if it does not intend to raise income tax, National Insurance, or VAT but at the same time it wants to spend a billion pounds a year just fixing potholes, for example, the money has to come from somewhere.

C. Aichgy

Millions sidelined by our voting system

The way we elect our politicians is driving a feeling of distrust and alienation in politics.

The renowned British Social Attitudes survey revealed record low trust in politics; 45% almost never trust the government to put the nation’s interests first, up from 34% in 2019. Meanwhile, 79% believe the present system of government needs significant improvement.

Part of the problem is the way First Past the Post systematically sidelines the voices of millions of people from the national conversation. With this system, millions of voters know their vote doesn’t matter.

Political parties know this too: under the current system, they don’t have to gain majority support across the whole country to win elections. Parties need only concentrate on the handful of voters that decide elections, in the knowledge that everyone else can be safely ignored.

This matters both in principle and for the choices politicians make in power. As long as Parliament doesn’t properly represent the whole country, trust in politics - and its ability to improve people’s lives - will fester. It’s time for a fairer, proportional system that ensures everyone’s voice is heard, no matter where they live and how they vote.

Barry John Richardson

My vote has never counted for anything

I am writing to express my concern about the prospect of millions of voters at this election not getting what they voted for.

The general election looks set to produce the most distorted result ever, with a record number of votes counting for nothing. I am a 71-year-old, lifelong Kent resident - and my vote thus far has never counted for anything.

As more voters than ever turn their back on the two main parties, we need a fairer, proportional system that ensures Parliament accurately represents how the country votes.

Without this change, politics will remain out of touch and parties will be able to cling to power without having to deliver on the issues that matter to the majority of people.

Denise Geeves

Raise taxes to restore economy

C. Aichgy once again alludes to my call for taxes on the rich (letters last week) but there is now a plan to do just that!

It has just been announced by French economist Gabriel Zucman that a 2% tax on those with over $1 billion could bring in around $250 billion (US) per annum to help with restoring economies.

Zucman said he hoped that such a tax could appear in under nine years, the same time it took to agree a global minimum tax on multinational corporate profits, as implemented by several countries. Additionally, there seem to be around 130 countries interested in the idea.

Despite the usual scepticism from some in initial reaction to this idea, in my view this is the sort of thing we all need in order to begin to restore economic health, alongside the now urgent need to tackle in earnest the threats from global heating and biodiversity loss around the world, even though it will still take some time to implement.

Ray Duff

Sick pay should be more generous

The cost-of-living crisis in the last few years has been difficult for many. With all the coverage of scandals and personalities, it feels like practical day-to-day measures that could help hard-pressed working people are not getting enough attention.

One of the hidden scandals affecting ordinary people is inadequate sick pay. Millions of workers, if they are unlucky enough to fall ill and have no extra employer sick pay, may end up struggling to survive financially getting the legal minimum £116.75 statutory sick pay, paid from day four. In our area that affects tens of thousands of people.

Despite a sick pay policy that contributed to needless deaths during the pandemic, the government has not acted to reform it.

Now, in this election campaign, neither of the two main parties have pledged an increase to sick pay to ensure workers can meet essential needs.

I hope local candidates will, therefore, be clear with voters where they stand on a sick pay increase.

If Europe, Canada, Japan and other places with similar economies can offer far more generous sick pay terms, why can't we?

Wayne Cunningham

Tighten laws to stop killing

I'm saddened that this current huntin', shootin', fishin' government have replied negatively to the petition calling for legislation to make the sale of catapults/ammunition and carrying catapults in public illegal, which would mean that police could arrest those carrying them, especially in areas of known wildlife crime, regardless of whether ammunition is found or not.

Their response was that: "Existing legislation provides the correct balance between protecting wildlife from the small number of individuals who misuse catapults, whilst also allowing the public to enjoy legitimate pastimes - for example, within fishing."

If this is the only example of a 'legitimate pastime' that the present government can come up with, how about licensing the use of a catapult on fishing licences where applicable? Then anyone found carrying a catapult would have to show that they were licensed to use one solely in conjunction with fishing equipment and not carried or used on its own.

In this way, anglers who are unable to accurately throw their bait into the river in any other way would not be deprived of their so-called 'sport' and anyone carrying a catapult without a licence would be breaking the law.

In rejecting this petition, the current government is making it easy for thugs to continue torturing and killing wildlife and gain enjoyment from it - and encourage others on social media to do the same.

Maybe our next government will see sense and understand that this mindless killing must stop.

Linda Weeks

‘Now that vaping is burgeoning, can we expect an award to emerge for the celebrity vaper of the year?’
‘Now that vaping is burgeoning, can we expect an award to emerge for the celebrity vaper of the year?’

What happened to the pipe smokers?

Vaping shops are becoming more prevalent on our high streets, their windows showcasing colourful products, no doubt designed to entice and bewitch customers.

Pipe smoking seems to be driven almost to extinction but back in 1965, Briar Pipe Association initiated Pipeman of the Year Awards to famous pipe smokers.

Not surprisingly, Harold Wilson became the first recipient of the award and was later crowned Pipeman of the Decade in 1976.

The well-known entertainer Eric Morecambe won for 1970, beating, amongst others, Peter Cushing. The event ran its course and was discontinued in 2003.

Now that vaping is burgeoning, can we expect to see an award emerge for the celebrity vaper of the year?

Michael Smith

Help kidney patients with new fiver

The new bank notes featuring King Charles III are now coming into circulation and we’re asking your readers if they would consider donating the first new £5 note they receive to Kidney Care UK.

Kidney disease affects 1 in 10 people in Kent and as the UK’s leading kidney patient support charity, we have been supporting kidney patients and their families for five decades and work to ensure that no one faces kidney disease alone.

Last year Kidney Care UK spent over £4.5million on charitable activities, helping more than 3,000 individuals and their families through our direct support services including counselling, debt advice and advocacy. Additionally, we provided financial support of over £860,000 to help people cope with unexpected bills and supports families facing hardship, and last year we were able to help individuals identify, and claim, more than £1.5m in benefits they were eligible for but were not claiming.

As a charity we receive no government funding, so by donating your #FirstFiver this can help us to provide immediate and life changing support to kidney patients and their families. For more information about the campaign, please go to https://kidneycareuk.org/first-fiver/

Emily Millington, Head of Fundraising, Kidney Care UK

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