TONY BLAIR: THE latest bomb attack in Saudi Arabia should surely convince the Americans that their Middle East policy is a complete disaster and is costing the lives of their citizens, among others.

Since Tony Blair has allied our foreign policy to that of the US, who knows when it could be our turn to be on the end of such an attack?

The Government has made all sorts of excuses for its poor showing in the local elections but it manifested widespread disapproval of the war in Iraq among Labour voters.

The American support for Israel and the war on Iraq is perceived as an attack on Islam and can only herald further incidents like the one in Saudi Arabia.

At home, Mr Blair is in the iron grip of Chancellor Brown and faces growing unrest among voters over such issues as foundation hospitals and tuition fees. He is afraid to hold the euro referendum in case he loses, which, of course, would mean he would have to resign.

His slavish pandering to Bush is another minus in a lacklustre performance.

Afghanistan has turned out to be a disaster largely unreported by our media. The Taliban are regrouping, heroin is flooding into Europe at the behest of the warlords and only in Kabul is there any semblance of law and order.

We all now know the catastrophe engulfing Iraq.

Mr Blair, you are now well past your sell-by date. - Hugh Pender, Darlington.


TARIQ Tahir's report (Echo, May 15) reflects my own concerns that council tax in County Durham accounts for an ever-increasing proportion of household expenditure.

My council tax payments have almost doubled in eight years since 1995, my income (pensions) has increased only in line with inflation. The council tax increase has averaged over 11 per cent per year (over the eight-year period).

By switching suppliers and prudent use I have been able to reduce the cost of other utilities over the same period.

My concern is that in the not-too-distant-future, my income will not support the increasing council tax payments I am legally obliged to meet, and which I cannot reduce by prudent use or switching suppliers.

If council services could be piped to my home as is gas, or wired as is the telephone and electricity, then perhaps I could reduce my council tax payments by shopping around for an authority more prudent in its use of taxpayers' money. - Ken Holroyd, Durham.

COUNCIL TAX bills in England have almost doubled since the charge was introduced ten years ago. This Government and local councils cannot expect the people of this land to go on paying huge rises on their council tax.

They are like leeches bleeding the population dry and it is now time for this Government to act - probably by bringing capping back. But, oh no, the councils will not like that. - DT Murray, Durham.


I READ with dismay (Echo, May 16) about village post offices closing due to the introduction of the new direct benefit payments that no one wants.

This a volcano waiting to erupt, firstly from the postal closures aspect, but also from the recipients' standing.

Many people live week to week waiting for the postman to bring their giros, so what is going to happen when "the computer goes down" so it does not get credited on time and people cannot get their money when they literally budget to the hour for it.

So people will call the agency involved, to be answered with: 'We cannot do anything as the computers are down'.

Who will then have to pay the bank charges etc, that people will incur due to late giros, that things like unpaid direct debit returns force them to unavoidably go overdrawn.

The fool who thought this idea up obviously has not had to rely on the certainty of their giro coming and, as strange as it may seem to them, some people still want to have the cash in their hands, and those that want it in the bank already have that option. - I White, Hurworth.


CONSERVATIVES announced they would abolish university tuition fees. This would save students and their families across Darlington up to £3,000 per year each.

Across Darlington there are already 1,392 full-time students aged 18 or over who might benefit from this policy, and another 1,852 aged 16-17, many of whom may soon go to university.

Labour's university tuition fees are a tax on learning. They have let down hard-working families, leaving young people with huge debts when they start work.

Labour's interference in admissions has universities tied up in red tape.

We need a fair deal for students and universities. Every student should be able to aspire to the top universities and every university able to offer places purely on merit. - Charles Johnson, Darlington.


PETE Winstanley's letter (HAS May 15) about the case of Tony Martin very effectively obscures the issue. So let's remind ourselves.

Tony Martin found himself alone with two young criminals who had broken into his house in the middle of the night. Wouldn't you, any normal person, have done exactly what he did in those circumstances and, as a matter of instinct, defended yourself as best you could?

We have all been brainwashed by our education, the Government, the BBC and others into prioritising the rights of criminals over our own, with the tragic social consequences we see all round us today.

The Tony Martins among us are all too few, and more's the pity. - Tony Kelly, Crook.