I MUST congratulate The Northern Echo for its front page on Friday, April 6 headlined "Homecomings".

The poignancy of the accompanying photograph helped emphasise the dire consequences of brave young people participating in a legally unsanctioned war and couldn't contrast more sharply with the circus which followed the release of the 15 members of the Royal Navy and Marines held as a propaganda coup by the Iranians.

I do not criticise the 15. They appear to have acted with dignity and courage in difficult circumstances. The whole sorry episode however has New Labour's fingerprints all over it. The loss of face internationally, the weak resolve of the Foreign Secretary, the attempt to spin the incident and the refusal to acknowledge ownership of the decision making process of allowing the personnel to be paid for their story.

Labour must realise young people gallantly enlist to serve this country, not Labour's attempt to support America in worldwide oppression Labour has let the servicemen down in respect of pay, equipment and leadership. It has too, as usual, let us, the people, down and attempts to cover its mistakes with shallow spin.

Colin T Mortimer, Pity Me, Durham City.