Ham&High letters: TV licences, Richard & Nazanin Ratcliffe, Brexit, Chris & Melania, Car Free Day, the Heath and education

Hornsey Pensioners Action Group joined other protestors marching against the withdrawal of TV licenc

Hornsey Pensioners Action Group joined other protestors marching against the withdrawal of TV licence funding for the over 75s. Picture: CLIVE EVERS - Credit: Janet Shapiro

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Ham&High readers this week.

Pensioners protest over TV licence row

Janet Shapiro, Hornsey Pensioners Action Group, full address supplied, writes:

Across Britain - Glasgow, Leicester, Chelmsford, London and Leeds - more than 1,000 pensioners protested recently against the withdrawal of TV licence funding for over 75s.

In London pensioners blocked traffic and after their protest outside the BBC headquarters in Portland Place they marched towards Oxford Circus. Their banners carried the message "Don't Switch Us Off!"

They're all demanding that government should fund the concessionary licences, a responsibility the BBC should not have taken on.

While the UK state pension remains the lowest in OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, universal benefits such as this one are essential.

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The national protest was organised by the National Pensioners Convention (NPC).

And the Hornsey Pensioners Action Group proudly joined in the march.

Many were interviewed by the press; they spoke of the misery that would be caused by the loss of the concessionary licence.

The media continues to be swamped with leadership battles so coverage of our protest was negligible.

However, we do have film coverage and photographs. These will appear on our website hornseypag.org.uk

Widespread support for Richard's hunger strieke outside Iranian Embassy

Linda Grove, Hampstead campaigner who has been with Richard Ratcliffe during most of his hunger strike, writes:

Supporters have been sitting and those passing by have been stopping to bring messages of support to Richard Ratcliffe who has been camping outside the Iranian Embassy in Princess Gate on a hunger strike.

His family, friends and strangers have wrapped themselves with love around this family. I guess it's because of the dignity they have shown and that we can all identify with them. It could have happened to any of us.

Everyone wants to show love and support for this amazing family by bringing something for Richard. But it can't be food so it's been hot water bottles, sun screen, towels, tea, coffee, battery chargers, vests and much more.

He is now hoping that folk will send postcards of support to: The Tent, 16 Princess Gate, Knightsbridge, London to show their support. The local postman was delighted to deliver a card this week.

As we all heard, on the prime minister candidates question time on the BBC, Boris (Johnson) still can't admit honestly for the gaff that he made by saying that Nazanin had gone to Iran to train journalists, a gaff that has not helped the Ratcliffe family. We need to make Boris accountable for his actions and Jeremy Hunt must get Nazanin's release now whilst he is still foreign secretary.

Pile on the pressure everyone to whoever is elected to be our new prime minister, write to your MP and come and visit Richard. Tell the world.

Leaders race not helping Nazanin

Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, writes:

Last week, Gabriella Ratcliffe celebrated her fifth birthday in the visitors' room of an Iranian prison.

According to Richard, her father, Gabriella had asked to celebrate her birthday there "so mummy can come". He said her joy "lit up the room" because she was able to see her mother.

This was the third time Nazanin has celebrated her daughter's birthday in jail. My constituents continue to face huge uncertainty, and her continued imprisonment is taking an enormous physical and emotional toll.

Richard Ratcliffe has been on hunger strike in solidarity with his wife for 10 days. Hundreds of members of the public have joined Richard outside the Iranian Embassy to show their solidarity with the family.

Richard began his hunger strike to demand the government takes stronger action for his wife. In March, Nazanin was granted diplomatic protection, escalating the case to a state-level dispute. This means the UK could secure additional protections from further unlawful acts being committed by Iran against Nazanin. Since this step was taken, however, progress seems to have stagnated.

Nazanin's case has been brought into national focus by the Conservative leadership contest. Her supporters will recall that Boris Johnson's tenure as foreign secretary was deeply damaging for her prospects of freedom. Those responsible for Nazanin's imprisonment have cited his words as justification for a longer sentence, and so journalists should repeat Nazanin's name whenever he says he is "ready for Number 10".

With Jeremy Hunt also running a leadership campaign, campaigners are concerned that Nazanin's case is being set aside until the contest is over. Whoever becomes the next prime minister, it is unlikely that Jeremy Hunt will continue in his current role. This is bad news for Nazanin, with Mr Hunt being the third foreign secretary since she was jailed in Iran.

Despite political turbulence at home, I will continue to put pressure on the government to act. I want to see ministers formally request a private consular meeting with Nazanin, I want to ensure that Iran grants Nazanin an independent medical examination, and I want to see effective diplomacy used to ensure her release.

If these avenues don't work, Britain must consider calling a UN Security Council meeting to highlight the continued abuse of my constituent's rights. Every additional day that Nazanin spends in prison is a mark of failure for a country that seems unable to protect its citizens abroad.

Thanks for Great Get Together day

Cllr Nazma Rahman, West Hampstead ward, writes:

Last weekend, with support from JW3 and Camden Council, I hosted a Great Get Together (GGT) in JW3. It brought together members of the local community and local councillors to celebrate diversity and promote cohesion.

These kind of events helps to strengthen the local community and build connections with our voluntary sector partners.

Like other Great Get Together events, we are honouring the words of the late Jo Cox MP: "We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us."

The Great Get Together is a huge campaign to bring communities together and achieve national unity. We are standing up for the values Jo Cox believed in; respect, kindness, community and love.

I am grateful to the staff and volunteers at JW3 and council colleagues for all the practical help they gave to put on this event. It was a wonderful gathering of our neighbours and we met some people for the first time. We enjoyed our conversations over tea, coffee, biscuits and cakes.

Of course, we shouldn't have to wait for an event to meet. We should catch up with our neighbours throughout the year not just once a year.

However, I will work hard to make next year's West Hampstead Great Get Together event even better and I would welcome any suggestions for how it could be improved. Please feel free to email your suggestions to me at nazma.rahman@camden.gov.uk

Failure to address Brexit concerns

Cllr Sara Conway, prospective Labour parliamentary candidate for Finchley and Golders Green, writes:

The Conservative administration continues to fail to acknowledge Barnet residents' concerns about the UK leaving the European Union.

Their response to Barnet Labour councillors repeatedly raising this matter has been to treat it as a bad joke.

Yet there is an increasingly urgent need for them to publish a proper plan for managing the impact of Brexit on our local communities, particularly if we crash out with No Deal. I have tabled several pressing questions for answer at the council meeting in July and asked that this matter be put on the agenda for the next Community Leadership meeting.

I voted to stay in the European Union and believe it remains the best option for building a better future for our borough and our country. Finchley and Golders Green Labour party have passed an emergency motion calling on Labour to campaign for Remain and a public vote, and against the right-wing Brexit agenda.

We will be working with others locally and nationally on this campaign. If you'd like to be involved please contact me at sara.conway@fgglabour.org.uk

Thinking of Chris and Melania

A Haringey resident, full name and address supplied, writes:

I'm a middle-aged, dull, straight man who doesn't cry, but your picture of the people attacked on a bus for being gay reduced me to tears.

How they must be feeling many days after the attack I can't imagine. I'm sickened and angry as hell with the five young men who carried out the assault.

The terrible irony is, the two women they attacked seem exactly the kind of people who would understand youths from disadvantaged backgrounds and want to help them.

I am thinking of Chris and Melania as they recover from this trauma, and want them to know millions of straight people have unconditional respect, support and love for the gay community.

I believe we are all to blame for what happened because we haven't done enough for young people with problems. Why have we not got youth clubs? £60 billion for HS2 but not £600 a month to fund a volunteer-staffed youth drop-in centre in every council estate?

If you want to positively avenge homophobic youths who attack women, then fight the conditions that made them like that. Start by e-mailing your MP, put "fund youth clubs instead of HS2" in the title box, and take it from there?

Parents should join Car Free Day

Siobhan Breen, Arkwright Road, Hampstead, writes:

Readers may have noticed that Sadiq Khan has announced that September 22 will be a Car Free Day when over 12 miles of streets in London will be closed to traffic.

I'm sure Camden, along with other local authorities, will be organising its own events but I wonder if this is something that the plethora of schools in Hampstead could participate in and so encourage their parents not to drive children to school on that day? Too many parents are still not acknowledging the impact of the school run on their children's health and would rather take measures such as installing anti-pollution screens in schools, believing that this is sufficient protection, than change their transport habits. As a result, the school run debate is still couched in the language of parents vs residents, as seen in the letters for and against Abacus school moving into Hampstead.

Given its proximity to the start of the autumn term, the Car Free Day is probably something that should be brought to parents' attention now rather than in September so that they have plenty of time to plan alternative modes of transport.

It will be interesting to see how many schools ask their parents to take up this initiative and, more importantly, how many parents actually participate.

Heath care does not go unnoticed

Robert Sutherland Smith, Widecombe Way, Barnet, writes:

May I congratulate the superintendent of Hampstead Heath and his team for delivering us a summertime Hampstead Heath.

Produced with painterly perception; little creative brush strokes - leaving the grass longer in the meadow near Brookside Mansions - the rudimentary rustic observation platform and viewing points over the nearby "Number One" pond, contribute to the sense of being in lush and tranquil countryside, many miles from central London.

John Constable would have felt at home in such landscape.

As you alight from the 214 bus from Camden Town at the bottom of Highgate West Hill, you suddenly find yourself in a place that feels distantly rural.

Grandkids' future education at stake

Keith Martin, Friern Park, Finchley, writes:

Two recent local events are concentrating the mind on aspects of civic attitudes to public services.

The first was a meeting of the Barnet Community Leadership and Libraries (CLL) committee. At this the chairman, Reuben Thompstone, made a partially successful effort to censor debate about views on the future direction of Barnet's library strategy. He clearly was keen to stifle the debate.

The second was the public circulation of a Labour Party leaflet from Sara Conway, their prospective parliamentary candidate for Finchley and Golders Green.

Sara promised to campaign for investment in education, better regeneration in North Finchley, and other worthy aims; education, supporting children and young people, and addressing the environmental crisis.

These two conflicting attitudes towards public services illustrate the stark contrast between the policies of Conservative and Labour. Conservatives stress cost cutting. Labour's priority is the benefit to the community. Sara is a politician for whom I have a lot of respect. She is Labour's spokesperson on libraries and an ardent advocate of the 1964 Act, under which local authorities have a statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient public library service.

I would venture to suggest to Sara that she firms up her manifesto to say clearly that she would campaign in parliament for local authorities to comply with the law and ensure that all libraries are up to the standard required by the 1964 Act. Such a commitment is a vote winner.

The future of our children and grandchildren's education is at stake.