If Boris Johnson wants unity, why stage a stunt that ignores the sadness of half the nation?

The Union flag flies in front of the Clock face on the Queen Elizabeth Tower, commonly referred to as Big Ben: Getty

I am delighted to read the report that crowdfunding for Big Ben to ring out on 31 January 2020 has started not with a bong but a whimper.

If Boris Johnson wants to bring our country together, why stage a stunt that ignores the sadness of half the country at our leaving the EU? Johnson’s victory means Brexit is happening – isn’t that enough for the Brexiteers without having to crow about it?

Imagine if the millions of us who feel 31 January will be a sad day for the UK gathered in Parliament Square to sing “Ode to Joy”? I think we know the insults that we would receive at the hands of the Tories and the Faragists.

We now have to accept that we’re leaving, but we’re hurting. If you want and need our cooperation in the future, don’t rub our noses in it please.

Jane Mogford
Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Electric dreams

Health secretary Matt Hancock says: “Fly all you like, we’ll make aeroplanes all electric.” Meanwhile we’re told that the surge in electric cars alone risks a national grid overload. Are we being taken for fools, or does the Conservative government intend to throw up new power stations at the rate they promised new hospitals?

Rev Peter Sharp
Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire

Animal rights victory

In a fitting start to the new decade, England’s long-awaited legislation to ban wild animal circuses comes into force this week (on 19 January), relegating these cruel and archaic spectacles to the history books. This follows years of grassroots protests, ad campaigns, and pressure from animal protection groups, celebrities and the public – including the 94 per cent of British people who responded to the government consultation on this issue by demanding a complete and permanent ban.

In 2020, most of us understand that animals shouldn’t be caged, chained, beaten into submission and deprived of all that’s natural and important to them for the sake of human amusement. For this reason, animal circuses around the world – as well as other institutions that cruelly imprison animals for entertainment, including SeaWorld and other marine abuse-ment parks – are on the decline, and we’re rejoicing.

Elisa Allen
Director, Peta UK, London

A painful truth

Each day an immense amount of energy is radiated onto the Earth from the sun and an almost equal amount of energy is radiated away from Earth. The difference is climate change. It depends upon the reflectivity of Earth. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reduces the heat radiated away, increasing temperatures on the planet. Over millions of years the carbon dioxide was taken out of the atmosphere and locked away in fossil fuels giving us the climate we have today.

We have unlocked some of that carbon dioxide and are thus changing our climate. To stop climate change we must stop using fossil fuels.

The immense amount of energy radiated by the sun to the Earth means that there is no shortage of energy available to us. We can waste as much as we like provided we develop the technology to use it. While we do that we have to recognise our dependence on fossil fuel. That dependence is our problem, not the fossil fuel producers; if they all stopped producing today it would be catastrophic.

We have to use the ability of market economies to invest productively in the technology required by taxing the exploitation of fossil fuels at the point of consumption – to reduce demand and reduce the benefit of investing in them, using the proceeds to help the transition to clean energy. We should have started 20 years ago with a progressive tax rate with small annual increments to ease the pain. Leaving it so late has made it more painful.

Jon Hawksley

A ‘great’ Britain?

In the first couple of centuries of its existence, the impeachment clause was exercised only once in the USA. In the last half century it’s been employed three times as an increasingly partisan weapon.

With opinion polarised, the number of people who can be won over by argument is fast diminishing and politics has descended into encouraging militants to delegitimise the president.

Since David Cameron’s referendums we live in equally tendentious societies – Scotland (viz nationalism) and England (viz Brexit) – where local concerns are overshadowed by a “great” cause.

US friends fear their nation is starting to resemble a Latin American banana republic. I fear that what was Great Britain is now an egocentric irrelevance in the wastes of the North Atlantic.

Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Scotland

Strange but true

Far from being archaic, as John Harrison maintains in his letter, the phrase “fall pregnant” is quite common. In my occupation as a counsellor, I hear young women use this quite a lot in the past tense. For example: “I’d just started my new job when I fell pregnant.” I noticed it because I too initially found it rather odd. It’s true that it never occurs in the perfect tense.

Nobody would say, “I have fallen pregnant“, and I’ve never heard a couple say, “We fell pregnant”, but the simple past-tense form is a normal part of the everyday spoken language. I most recently heard it a few months ago used by a 20-year-old woman.

The implication of the word “fall” in this context is not one of “lost virtue”, but of something which happened by chance, it was not planned. So yes, it could have been better expressed in the original article, but not for the reasons given by your correspondent.

Alan O’Brien
Colne, Lancashire

Man up, Boris

Three British nationals were killed in the Ukrainian plane crash in Iran. How does Boris Johnson intend to respond to this heinous crime? This was the result of Donald Trump’s actions and he should be brought to task for his belligerent actions. What would have happened if an American citizen had been killed? Man up, Mr Johnson!

Christopher Learmont-Hughes
Caldy, Wirral

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