NEW LABOUR: ONCE upon a time, I was proud to be British. It was my land and, like so many more, I was patriotic. In the Royal Air Force, I was glad to serve my country.

Today things are so different. New Labour seems to be intent on destroying everything our country stands for.

Crime is out of control and the perpetrators so often walk free. Gangs are ruling over city streets, terrorists are not only in our midst, but are here by invitation.

On top of all this, we have the war we will almost certainly soon be fighting in Iraq, a war that can only result in the slaughter of innocent people and possibly the sacrifice of many of our own.

Of course, we are not in a position to prevent the US going to war, but we are in a very real position to refuse to join them until we have a real and evident need to do so.

Like New Labour, Tony Blair promised so much; a good man, a man of peace, a Christian, we were told.

Alas, the effect of power, how it takes its tragic toll. Let us hope and pray the ego of one individual does not result in the destruction of that which we still have to cherish in our green and pleasant land. - GD Gargett, Peterlee.

PREVIOUSLY I have forecast that Tony Blair and his puppets would destroy our once great country by his obsession with Europe and his wish to be president.

He has to be recognised now for the lap dog to France and Germany with his acceptance of thousands of immigrants and asylum seekers who have been off-loaded to our country.

It is no good David Blunkett warning our own people about taking the law into their own hands. What does he expect. He and his Government are doing nothing about it, are they?

I do not want to see another war, but I do agree with Tony Blair that Saddam Hussein has got to be stopped. Apart from that, he and his Government are a complete disaster for our people and our way of life.

I would warn Gibraltar: keep your eyes open for Jack Straw giving you away to Spain. When you look at the number of Cabinet swaps, you would think it was musical chairs instead of Blind Man's Bluff. - F Wealands, Darlington.

AS far as right wing dictatorships go, Britain seems to be moving up the league table.

It is sad that finding money for universities has got to be at the expense of students who already leave degree courses heavily in debt. We are also told by our great leader that it is impossible to build a school or a hospital or, for that matter, carry out any public works without resorting to the buy now, pay forever, private finance initiative scheme.

But war, now that's different! If it's war, money is no object.

I am sure that there are many people in Iraq who would like to see the back of Saddam Hussein, though perhaps not at the expense of hundreds of thousands of lives.

Why not save their lives and save our money and just send our own dictator packing instead?

Mr Blair must go soon or we will all be paying for his disastrous regime for years to come. - Carl Watson, Darlington.


I WONDER if others share my concern regarding the situation in Zimbabwe and the problems facing the English cricket team and officials.

As a team, I feel sure they would want to go. But there are other things to think about - moral issues, safety issues and the concerns of families.

But if the main reason for going is because of the burden of fines which would be laid upon them should they not go, then something must be done.

No one - sports bodies or Government - seems willing to offer help. Will it be the British public who rally round to raise funds? I would hope so. - Hilda Smith, Ripon.


RECENT reports and correspondence regarding Durham Gala Theatre raise serious issues about the range of services local district councils should properly engage in.

Had Durham City Council stuck to those tasks the public could reasonably expect it to understand, like emptying bins, cutting grass, letting council houses and so forth, little could be expected to go wrong.

However, Durham City Council decided to dabble in matters beyond its competence - in property development, theatre management and film making. The consequences for the people of Durham have been catastrophic.

A few years ago the council had capital resources of £5m - now there is not enough in the bank to buy each of its voters a fish supper and a pint.

Colin Shearsmith, the council's chief executive, tells us through your pages: "No theatre in the land runs without subsidy." Many do, those managed by competent professionals who risk their own money.

Something triggered Durham's rush into a series of ventures not normally engaged in by sensible authorities. Was it pride, boredom, a desire for excitement?

Whatever the reason, the taxpayers of the city will have to pick up the tab - for years to come. - Brian Clouston, Durham.

COLIN Shearsmith, chief executive of Durham City Council (HAS, Jan 24) hides behind the remarks of Brian Sewell's opinion that the North-East is inhabited by too many Philistines who do not deserve first class entertainment and culture on their doorstep.

I, for one, do not want the Gala Theatre to close. What I object to is the financial running of it. It is £700,000 in debt within a matter of months, and there is also the smaller matter of a £75,000 loan.

Why did the council fail to keep a handle on the financial situation of the management team, allowing it to accrue such large debts?

Give the people of Durham a referendum or a vote on the subsidies that will be going on their council tax bills.

The council taxpayers are out of pocket to the tune of £209,000. If a taxpayer owed the council £209,000 the council would take legal action to recover it. - DT Murray, Coxhoe.