Stretching an MP's abilities too far

Dear Editor, There is no doubt that it is humbling and indeed an honour for retired gentlemen or ladies who lunch to sit on numerous committees and do good charitable works - we should all give some time this way.

However, serious consideration should be given as to why Gordon Brown offered, and Liam Byrne accepted, a ministerial position within HM Treasury - especially when he has a number of other Offices of State.

As Minister of State at the Home Office, Minister for the West Midlands, Member of Parliament for Birmingham Hodge Hill and now Minister of State at the Treasury Liam Byrne must find himself the most overworked Minister within government.

Liam Byrne is clearly an intelligent man, but his abilities are being stretched too far. Due to his lack of responding or accountability it is sensible to ask whether this Minister can offer the dedication and time that one or all of these offices of state - let alone the electorate - are entitled too?

Out of the 13 appointments Gordon Brown made, 12 make sense, but Liam Byrne's appointment makes a joke of the system and Liam's own explanation of a "bigger team" and "hotline to the Chancellor" only adds to this feeling. It also illustrates that Gordon Brown, like Tony Blair before him, has little liking for true cabinet governance but prefers the more intimate round-the-coffee-table style which made such a mockery of Blair's government. It looks like Gordon Brown's dithering style is now going down this well trodden and failed route.

Liam Byrne, in his own letter to The Birmingham Post, wrote that "you won't find many more enthusiastic supporters of strong scrutiny than me" and that "I love a good debate" (Proof positive that I am fighting for West Midlands success, Post Agenda January 21).

To have taken up another ministerial post does not offer more scrutiny or extra debate, but hides the Minister further away from the electorate he purports to represent.

If Liam Byrne is heartfelt about the words he writes of scrutiny and debate, then the time has come for him to take to a public platform and show that for this Minister actions do speak louder than words.


Sutton Coldfield

Memories and fears for Kenya

Dear Editor, I am very sad the way Kenya is going on the world stage. Are we seeing a new Zimbabwe crisis occurring on this great continent?

I travelled around Kenya when a young student nurse in the early 1980s, on a sabbatical, and stayed partly in Nairobi and Mombasa. The Falklands War had just finished, and I remember being threatened with violence by a group of Kenyan youths on a dirt track, who seemed very angry that Britain was trying to be a world power again. Fortunately for me they were interrupted by a lady carrying a pot of some kind on her head. For years my ego convinced me that I had talked them out of it, but I knew I was wrong.

I visited the lovely railway museum just outside Nairobi, which had numerous poignant pictures of Chinese and Asian labourers being brought to Kenya by ship, to build the railway system in Kenya for the British Empire. I met the great anthropologist Richard Leakey after hearing his talk about a recent find at Fort Jesus in Mombasa. Richard's brother was also a member of the Kenyan government at that time.

I visited the Muslim island of Lamu, where Rider Haggard lived for a while, and which influenced him to write King Solomon's Mines and She.

I remember visiting the Great Rift Valley, walking up part of Mount Kenya with a guide and meeting members of the Kiku Tribe. My favourite adventure was going on a safari tour, which increased my love of wildlife in Africa. The best memory for me though was realising how lovely, helpful and friendly the people were to outsiders.

On the downside, I saw the disgraceful shanty towns which make up most of Nairobi and had my camera confiscated when I took a picture of Jomo Kenyatta's statue in Nairobi. I remember seeing President Arap Moi's pictures everywhere and being told he was a total dictator.

Now I hear internal tribal strife and discrimination is spreading like a virus and this once peaceful and democratic jewel in Africa's crown is disintegrating into cold savagery. It is a great shame, because the Asian community in Nairobi and Mombasa, were at that time proud Kenya was peaceful and hadn't gone the same way as Uganda and other African dictatorships.

Zimbabwe was yet to slide into that nightmare. But I remember reading in the Kenyan Times that Mugabe had been involved in various atrocities in Zimbabwe. "It can't happen here?" I heard myself ask.

I hope and pray somebody, or some organisation, can intervene before the nightmare starts in Kenya, but looking at the form of the UN and Commonwealth, I don't hold up much hope.



We need the whole truth on wage cuts

Dear Editor, So 20,000 council workers are going on strike because some of them have had their wages cut.

Having read in the Post a year or so ago about the worker getting £90,000 for changing light bulbs, I have to ask, are the people who are having a wage cut in a similar job?

If the unions want the sympathy of the public, who after all pay their wages, they should inform us of the types of employment and the existing wage levels, we may then feel some sympathy for the strikers.

There again, perhaps even the unions are embarrassed at some of the salaries being paid and know they would lose the support of everyone if the true situation were revealed.

Tell all and shame the devil.