Encouraging politics that is based on fear
Dear Editor, I have become increasingly concerned regarding the abuse of position by Nigel Hastilow in his articles in the local press.

The point where he crossed all decency was his recent comments on immigration. I am all in favour of having a sensible debate but not to blame, in his words, "immigrants" (a generic grouping including asylum seekers, migrant workers, illegal immigrants, refugees and skilled workers I assume) for our housing shortages.

If Nigel had a knowledgeable understanding of our welfare system, he would know that the vast majority of foreigners are not entitled to social housing. The rules regarding who is entitled to council housing are incredibly complex, and illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers have no recourse to public benefits.

I am not saying that we do not need to debate immigration policy, of course we do, but I object to identifying people as "immigrants" purely because of the colour of their skin or the way that they speak and assuming that they are the reason why we don't have enough housing.

Nigel Hastilow is encouraging a politics based on fear and greed and I for one am glad he has resigned as he was helping to create a bigoted view to win the right wing vote.
PAUL WEBB, Cradley Heath

A man of conviction
Dear Editor, I am not a political animal, so am not going to attempt to wade into the debate over whether I think Nigel Hastilow  was right to appear to endorse Enoch Powell's notorious speech on immigration. What I will say is that I was fortunate to work as a feature writer on The Birmingham Post when Nigel was editor and I know him to be a brilliant writer and an inspirational journalist.

I also know him as a man of passionate conviction - whether or not I or the public at large agree with those convictions - and his decision to turn away from his long-held political ambition rather than compromise his integrity is particularly laudable in a society too afraid to put its head above the parapet and stick to its guns.

I only hope that Nigel will realise what a lucky escape he had from the clutches of the party political machine he sought to be part of and return full-time what he's best at - cutting edge, and, yes, sometimes controversial, journalism.
ROS DODD, Scarlet Media

Illuminating personal blog
Dear Editor, I am horrified that Nigel Hastilow's resignation is being portrayed as a 'very honourable decision', as the Tory party claims.

Let us not forget that Hastilow claimed Enoch Powell's view on immigration was right - Powell who quoted a constituent who feared "In this country in 15 or 20 years time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man"; Powell who used the provocative and emotive imagery of "rivers of blood". It is simply incredible that someone should back the offensive comments of Powell at this time.

For those that think this man reflects the views and concerns in the Black Country (as he claims), I strongly suggest you read his personal blog where he makes equally offensive comments about single mothers, all Scottish people, local people and many more.

Shame on the local Conservative Party officials who have defended his awful comments. Hastilow, it's not foreigners who should pack their bags - it's you!
 N POTTER, Halesowen

Provocative and irresponsible
Dear Editor, Nigel Hastilow, recent Parliamentary Candidate for Halesowen & Rowley Regis and a local journalist, surely has a duty to use his public platform in a responsible way.

I do not have a problem with people debating issues such as immigration policy, however I consider his comments were provocative and irresponsible.  There is no place in Parliament for the likes of him.
 ANNE WEST, Halesowen

Many Tories stuck in last century
Dear Editor, I applaud your courage in the comments you made on the front page of Tuesday's Birmingham Post (Enoch Powell was wrong then and Hastilow is wrong now, Post Nov 6).

The response from some of your readers was predictable, but wrong. There are still too many Conservative supporters stuck in the last century.
 STEVE CHUDLEY, Edgbaston

Creativity is bubbling in this city
Dear Editor, I have read with interest the debate on the promotion of Birmingham as a creative city.

Having been involved in researching "place" branding since the early 1990s and heavily involved in both sports and the arts in the city, I have been impressed - as all Brummies should be - by what can only be described as Birmingham's renaissance during that period. The city now stands up as a venue for the arts, entertainment, and sport provision against most European centres as a direct result of positive 1990s investment and promotion.

Since the millennium, Birmingham's cultural role seems to have become more confused. A City of Culture bid and wider marketing messages have basically put out a meaningless message which says that, because we have a lot of black and minority ethnic people in the city we are interesting and diverse.

In November 2006, my company sponsored the Birmingham Jazz Awards at the Jam House - because it showcased how one organisation - Birmingham Jazz - could act as a catalyst and engage with all sections of the community, young and old, and seamlessly promote the fantastic talent emerging from the Conservatoire alongside an annual programme promoting excellence from the UK and overseas.

The education projects which Birmingham Jazz has formulated have encouraged a flowering of local talent - with young black, Asian and white artists developing a unique sound which borrows from their own backgrounds and out of which the performers themselves have gone on to form exciting new bands. Many people came up to me at the Jam House to say how the Void (a teenage band from Hamstead Hall school which included Indian, Black Caribbean and white performers) were worth the entrance money alone (with similar plaudits from delegates to conferences at the ICC stumbling on similar performances at the packed-out Birmingham Jazz/Symphony Hall commuter jazz on Friday evenings).

This is not the result of top-down "bussing" of highly paid performers out to the inner-city in the hope that art will emerge Billy-Elliot style. This is the encouragement of an organic and exciting emergence of creativity which has enormous potential within Birmingham. Black, Asian and white artists actually performing together because they want to - and after relatively limited encouragement - doing it for themselves in running jam sessions and performing live.

Put this alongside Birmingham Jazz's other new-wave theme of club jazz with DJ-led 'nu-skool' music at the Rainbow and the Sidewinder sessions - and the young performers streaming out of the Conservatoire and given performance opportunities from cafes and bars to more formal settings - you can almost feel the creativity bubbling under the surface in this city. This is a creativity which if supported could not only make Birmingham unique in Britain (and indeed Europe) but would play a major part in the city's branding as a place for the future at ease with itself.

The small niche of success I have described could easily be built upon. At present it is the result of the tireless - and by definition limited - efforts of a small voluntary organisation which has to compete for funds with far less impactful organisations - not least the disappointing Birmingham Jazz Festival, which I personally believe has a negative impact on the city - providing an image of an unimaginative and conservative place going precisely nowhere.

This is not a plea for more funding for my favourite form of art, but more a professional viewpoint that sees a real opportunity for Birmingham which is currently available to no other provincial city in the UK.
 PAUL BAKER, MD, Vector Research Limited

Truth about pay protection
Dear Editor, With reference to the issue of single status pay at Birmingham City Council, Alan Rudge is either confused about pay protection or deliberately trying to mislead people (Council hit by protests as 2,000 female staff lose pay, Post Nov 7).

His comments in the press and in other recent communications clearly imply that pay protection will in some way prevent people, or at least some of them, from seeing a pay cut. This is not the case and it is wrong of Coun Rudge to suggest otherwise.

If a job is downgraded then that person will get a pay cut. That's it.

If 12 per cent of staff are going to see a cut in pay then that figure will always be 12 per cent, it will not drop to seven per cent or any other better sounding figure. They will always be earning less than they would if they had not been downgraded.

Pay protection will keep them on their original pay level for a specified time and after that they will still have had a pay cut regardless of whatever their salary is.

The fact that after the period of pay protection the salary they have been downgraded to has caught up with what their salary was before being downgraded doesn't mean they haven't had a pay cut.

That they will get no annual 'cost of living' rises while on pay protection, which also means they are getting a pay cut while on pay protection.
 MICHAEL CROWE, By email

Highlighting the work of EBNS
Dear Editor, I would like to take this opportunity to make readers aware of the work that EBNS (East Birmingham North Solihull Regeneration Zone Ltd), together with our funder Advantage West Midlands, is currently involved with in Digbeth.

Mr Jones is quote right - much of the initiative in Digbeth is being taken by the private sector, but we and AWM are actively supporting the development of the creative sector. Through a series of multi-million pound investments we are working with private sector developers to develop new work and exhibition space by bringing buildings such as the iconic Devonshire House and Walker Building back into use.

We have also been helping to set up a Digbeth Business Group with the Chamber of Commerce and others to support local businesses in Digbeth and sponsored a number of local events including Gigbeth.

Digbeth offers a tremendous opportunity and we look forward to working with Mr Jones and others to ensure that Digbeth's potential is fully realised.
 GRAHAM EDWARDS, Chief Executive, EBNS