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Letters, January 18: John Button memories; paying for life on the Somerset Levels; South Africa land reforms

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 18, 2014

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My happy memories of a very proud father

I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of John Button. I do remember (many years ago now) as a "cub" motor advertising rep on the Bath Chronicle and Western Daily Press calling on a then major Volkswagen car dealership in Bath. Older readers may recall a company called Simms of Bath who held this prestigious car franchise.

Each Monday I would call at the garage to discuss advertising plans for that coming week having reviewed sales activity over the previous weekend. The sales manager of the dealership was one John Button.

After business was discussed, John would tell me of his motor racing activities that weekend. He also told me that his (very young) son Jenson was doing very well in go-kart racing and could possibly have great potential. As we know, the rest is history.

On Wednesday last I was on Western Daily Press business in Frome (the Buttons' home town) and sensed a very great sense of privilege to walk over a footbridge. I noticed a plaque on the building proudly states "Jenson Button MBE".

John Button, with his great efforts (often in very difficult financial circumstances), encouraged and supported his son to become a Formula 1 champion, thus putting the town of Frome, the county of Somerset and Great Britain very much on the world motor racing stage. Thank you, John, and sincere condolences to your family.

Robin Phillips

by email

Refreshing view of life on the Levels

How refreshing to read about Suzette Billington (Western Daily Press January 8) living on the Somerset Levels and enjoying the flood protection scheme provided by her late husband. She is even prepared with a boat, handy! It makes a pleasant change from the moaning self-pity of residents of routinely flooded areas.

They seem to do nothing to protect their residences and expect to be provided for by the taxpayer.

I understand that all house insurance policies will have a levy to subsidise the cost of insurance for those choosing to live in flood risk areas. I would rather see these areas identified by the Environment Agency and residents in them paid additional council tax. This money could then fund local flood protection schemes and help cover the potential burdens on society.

In recent days there have been the amateur hydrologists who think all the problems would be solved on the Levels if the rhynes were dredged; at great expense to the taxpayer. I fail to see how this would prevent the flooding of the recent inundation. It might speed up the run-off when the rain clears but I think the cost benefits would be marginal.

Surely it should be possible to devise a scheme to take advantage of the high tidal range of the Bristol Channel to induce controlled flushing of the rhynes. There is nothing new in this idea. Brunel devised a scheme to use the tide to keep the old Bridgwater dock clear. He used "Bertha" the dredger – actually a mud scraper – and a system of pulling wires across the dock to move the mud to the dock entrance. The River Parrett then flushed it away.

Francis Morris

Dursley, Gloucestershire

South Africa needs to follow Mugabe

No one can dispute the painstaking and unrivalled work that the late Nelson Mandela did to dismantle the brutal apartheid system in South Africa, but today more than 85 per cent of the arable land and wealth is owned and controlled by less than 8 per cent of the population – the descendants of the architects of apartheid.

The shift of political power to the majority (black people) has not loosened the grip that the minority whites have on the lifeline of South Africa's wealth and economy. The situation is not far removed from what took place in Zimbabwe up to ten years after independence. Robert Mugabe became a "despot" to the West when he attempted to redistribute land to landless Zimbabweans. In retaliation the West imposed drastic economic sanctions against ordinary Zimbabweans for continuing to re-elect him to office. It is worth noting that it was the British and American governments that broke their treaty obligation to pay white landowners for lands taken for redistribution.

South Africa's "long journey" to full freedom and justice will not end until economic and social inequality are addressed by any means necessary.

It is obvious that South Africa will have to take the route that Mugabe took to address the issue of land ownership.

It will be interesting to see the reactions of the world imperialists, particularly the British and Americans.

H Martin

Swindon, Wiltshire

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