Signing up to escape the pit hardships

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From: Jack Brown, Lamb Lane, Monk Bretton, Barnsley.

curator Anthony Carroll (Yorkshire Post, April 30) is wrong about miner artist Eric Hill. Mr Hill was not “called up” for World War II, he volunteered.

Like all his mining brethren, he had only worked two to three days a week since the 1926 strike turned into a lock-out. My dad was on 30 shillings (£1.50) a week when I was born in 1937.

During that time, George Orwell noted a death a day in the Barnsley pits; so common that “death stoppage” was rubber-stamped on to pay notes. Four of my uncles volunteered “for the duration” to escape from this poverty and suffering, although Jack Glover – who lived with my family and served in submarines throughout – said they joined to get a ride on a train.

They escaped through a narrow window of opportunity; open only until the threat to productivity made mining a “reserved industry”.

It wasn’t the only one, but it was the only one that was so dangerous that it stayed so after the war. My dad’s youngest brother was killed in France. Like Mr Hill, my other three uncles returned to the pit after demobilisation.

Uncle Jack, one of my Communist mentors, found out he was a bound labourer in a savage industry that did not begin to reform until nationalisation in 1946. He committed a criminal offence by deserting to the Merchant Navy. I was outraged when Bevin Boys like Jimmy Savile campaigned for and were granted a medal. When I suggested to my father and his mates that they should have medals too they asked: “What about the trawler lads? We’re getting like the bloody Yanks”. Now that’s what I call class with class.

Scuffle over the centre ground

From: Michael Swaby, Hainton Avenue, Grimsby, Lincolnshire.

Alan Carcas fears that voting Ukip risks letting in Labour, whilst Mark Stuart suggests that Mr Cameron should emphasise this very point (Yorkshire Post, May 6). If he does, then voters then might well be inclined to ponder how the situation has arisen, and who is responsible.

The first big strategic decision was to continue the Blairite policy of occupying the overrated “centre ground”. Not only do I doubt that “Blairism” is portable, I am dubious about the battlefield analogies. Although we refer to “right”, “left” and “centre” an election is a contest for hearts and minds, not physical territory. Voters will respond to a person who offers strong leadership, conviction, sound policies, and clear direction.

I do not accept that such a leader would fail, because commentators decide that he or she is not at or of “the centre”.

I note that some Conservatives are warning against a “lurch to the right”, whilst in the Labour ranks, Blairites stress that the centre ground must not be abandoned. If our political leaders were not inflated by the prospect of office, common sense would surely warn them that three parties scuffling over one square foot of centre ground is ridiculous, undemocratic, and unsustainable in the longer term.

The second decision was to oppose voting reform, in the form of the Alternative Vote. Having used it in Australia for 30 years, I believe it to be superior. You mark the candidates in order of preference, fold up the ballot paper, and stick it in the box.

Two years ago, I was aghast to see the Prime Minister appear on television and, with a straight face, declare that “the Alternative Vote is complicated”. The idea of eliminating the candidate who finishes last, and reallocating his or her votes is scarcely one that would defeat even an intelligent schoolchild.

Voters were persuaded to retain “first past the post”, so now neither old-style Liberals nor Ukip voters have the opportunity to give their second preference to a Conservative candidate.

An alternative to AV needed

From: JG Riseley, Harcourt Drive, Harrogate.

The surge in support for Ukip represents a brief window of opportunity for the adoption of some form of successor to AV.

If the right-of-centre vote is split then it is unrealistic to expect a resulting Labour government to introduce reform which would resolve such a split.

The Conservatives on the 
other hand are urgently in
 need of this measure. It is 
surely too conspicuously hypocritical, even for them, to condemn us to another first past the post election and then warn that a vote for Ukip is a vote for Labour.

How, you might ask, could 
they now make a change which has been convincingly rejected in a referendum? Firstly, the proposal can be modified to address legitimate criticisms made of it. Secondly, we need 
to remember that the 
referendum was an absurdity inflicted upon us by a delusional Nick Clegg.

Preference voting is like same sex marriage; the relevant political question was not whether a majority of the electorate wish to participate but whether they were prepared to forbid it for those who do. The difficulty of communicating that distinction made it an unsuitable issue for a referendum.

Brigade still has a role with boys

From: Susan Abbott, Melbourne Road, Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

It was good to see in From the Archive (Yorkshire Post, May 6) a photograph of members of the Knaresborough Boys’ Brigade in 1973.

I was both secretary and an officer in the 1st Wakefield (Wrenthorpe) BB Company from 1982 until its closure in 1999 in what was the first Christian uniformed organisation for boys founded in 1883 in Glasgow by Sir William Alexander Smith. Boys take part in activities and competitions and organisations like BB can still play an important part in a boy’s life, such as teamwork, thinking of others and discipline.

The BB motto was Sure and Stedfast (biblical spelling).