ASYLUM SEEKERS: THE Government has allowed hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers into this country while they close down nursing homes throughout Great Britain and leave many of our elderly citizens, many of whom who fought for this nation, on the scrapheap.

These poor souls should be given free care instead of handing out buckets of cash to unwelcome immigrants who travel through the safe haven of Europe to settle in the United Kingdom.

Open your eyes, Prime Minister. While I applaud you on your stance with our American allies concerning Iraq, I am appalled at your treatment on our pensioners who deserve much, much more.

Build more nursing homes instead of refugee centres and give the elderly the free care they deserve and a higher weekly income on their well-earned pension books. - Christopher Wardell, Darlington

LABOUR backbenchers are asking if Tony Blair would allow Iraqi people to claim asylum in the United Kingdom if we go to war against Saddam Hussein. The answer should be 'No'.

We have enough refugees in this country as it is. Over 100,000 foreigners came to our shores last year to take advantage of our system while our own, poor pensioners struggle to survive on their weekly income.

Let's get to work and detain these immigrants and send them back to where they came from and let us put British people first. - Adrian Bell, Darlington.


AS a foot soldier in the Conservative cause, in what is often the most hostile territory, I can agree with some of your recent comments aimed at the Tories.

However, all political parties are made up of, and always have been, coalitions of slightly different shades of opinion. It seems pretty normal for the leader of any party, business or organisation to have "close by" people of very similar beliefs. Would an entrepreneur have an Arthur Scargill type as his right hand man?

I don't expect and would not accept any favours in the North-East, but maybe "County Durham's paper" should be asking objective questions like, why we are facing a 9.2 per cent council tax rise when the local authority got a larger slice of money?

Who's not paying their share? How much is owed in arrears? Why are certain authorities shedding 34 jobs and slashing services to freeze their tax? That is no better than an increase.

Most working class people are very conservative. Ask folk about crime, drugs, asylum, tax, savings, Britain, traditional values etc, and you will get a more right wing view than I would supply. Many have been kept in a state of ignorance by the old guard, hell bent on staying in power, rather than improving our lot. - Jim Tague, Chairman, Bishop Auckland Branch, Conservative Party.


ART critic Brian Sewell's suggestion that North-Easterners are too unsophisticated to appreciate fine art reminds me of events at a North-East art gallery some years ago.

The gallery was hosting an Arts Council exhibition, which included a large triangular canvass painted plain yellow. Some children who visited the gallery were apparently unable to appreciate such sophisticated artistic innovation, and left grubby fingerprints all over it. A member of staff tried to clean them off, but succeeded only in removing some of the paint. Showing great initiative, he went out and bought a tin of emulsion paint of roughly the right colour, and repainted the entire canvass.

The painting was returned to those sophisticated people at the Arts Council in London, who, as far as I know, remain unaware that we have here in the North-East, a talented artist who can paint a yellow triangle as well as the next man. - Pete Winstanley, Durham.


NICE to see your report (Echo, Mar 3) of former MI5 man David Shayler now being free to visit his family and watch Middlesbrough, his favourite team.

But how did your reporter come to refer to him as "the renegade spy"? Shayler was never a spy. His 'crime' was to breach the ancient Official Secrets Act, rushed undebated through Parliament in World War One and notoriously abused ever since by all our Intelligence Services.

Shayler's crime was to reveal that MI5 officials had targeted and bugged people involved in entirely legitimate organisations, such as the National Council for Civil Liberties. Among these were Patricia Hewitt and Harriet Harman, now senior members of the Government. Jack Straw, now this country's Foreign Secretary, was also in those officials' sights, as too were totally illegal plans to assassinate a foreign head of state, Libya's President Gadaffi.

These officials - public servants, paid for by us - were able to indulge their whims and private political prejudices so easily because the Official Secrets Act prevents just about any public oversight of whatever they feel like doing. So, far from being a 'renegade spy', Shayler was a patriot, prepared to lay down a promising career in order to draw attention to the murky, anti-social activities of our uncontrolled secret services. For his honesty, he was hunted down and sent to prison. Good to know he's now served his time. Good too, that Echo readers should know this man was no 'spy'. - Stanley Walinets, Mickleton.