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Please note, any letters sent to the Bucks Free Press office are only being picked up periodically as all staff are still working from home.

Pleased at bridge protections

It was in 1967 I first discovered Marlow after a drive from the industrial midlands to start a new job in the Thames Valley. I remember the breath-taking view at sunrise over Marlow as I drove in my mini down the Wycombe Road.

This moment was soon overtaken by the interesting drive down Marlow High Street, with the two busy petrol filling stations, to the bridge over the River Thames. I discovered very soon after using this bridge to cross the river that Marlow Bridge was designed by the revered civil engineer John Tierney Clark in 1832. What a great feat of engineering and what a fantastic entrance into and out of the wonderful historic town of Marlow with its microclimate.

I am so pleased that the custodians of the Landmark Bridge are using restricting methods to prevent large vehicles from damaging the bridge, which would eventually result in this unique and beautiful crossing being closed.

Is it too much to ask that drivers of large vehicles take the alternative route and cross the Thames on the Marlow bypass? This would then ensure an extended life to this eye-catching structure and allow the residents, traders and visitors who wish to cross the Thames on foot, by cycle, small utility transport or family car to use the bridge which has served the town for the last 189 years.

The restrictions that have been introduced do not in any way prevent access, for vehicles for which the bridge was designed, to enter and leave this truly wonderful town of Marlow. I do remember a few occasions when the bridge has been closed for maintenance, this work then causes disruption to the Town. Abuse of tis masterpiece would result in permanent disruption and have a derogatory effect on the wellbeing of the future of Marlow.

I have been extremely fortunate to have discovered this wonderful environment and to be able to live in this riverside side town of Marlow with its microclimate for over fifty years. To this day I count my blessings when I cross the Old Father Thames on Tierney Clark’s world-famous suspension Bridge on my return to my home, I realise how lucky I am to be blessed with such a tranquil welcome home.

Let us all be sensible, use the suspension bridge for what it was designed, and keep this unique, picturesque, engineering marvel working to give access to Great Marlow for generations to come.

Keith Chamberlain, via email

What are Bucks cabinet afraid of?

I wonder how many BFP readers are aware of Bucks Council’s new Climate Change Strategy? How many knew there was a questionnaire based ‘consultation’ last year? Or filled it in? How many are aware of the existence of Community Boards and Climate Change sub-committees of those Boards? My guess is that few are aware ...and even fewer are engaged. This morning, at the Transport Environment and Climate Change committee meeting [March 11], I asked Cllr Bill Chapple, Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, how he would engage with and win the support from a truly representative sample of our County’s residents - not just the few who actively engage in local politics. I offered him the local government leading-practice and innovative solution of holding a Citizen’s Climate Assembly, as seen just up the A40 in Oxford, for example. I even offered to link him up with Oxford Council’s deputy Leader, who ran the assembly.

But Bill knows better. Despite the sad fact that far fewer than 50% of the registered electorate will vote in the upcoming elections, he still thinks that the council chamber genuinely represents our residents. He thinks the highly engaged, but very small number of public members of the Community Boards genuinely represent all residents, all strands of political opinion, all demographics and all points of view. It is such a shame that our council’s cabinet members are so resistant to adopting innovative ways of really speaking to all of the people they claim to represent. What are they afraid of? That they’ll be told that their plan goes neither fast enough nor far enough?

Stephen Greiff, Wycombe Labour for a Green New Deal

Nurses deserve a better deal

A student when Wycombe Hospital’s A&E department closed in 2005, I recall with disgust how local Conservative MP Paul Goodman sat on the fence rather than fight to save this community facility. Now another local Conservative MP, Steve Baker (£67k p/a + expenses), appears to be strangely silent regarding the derisory offer of a 1% pay increase for nurses and other front line workers who have put their lives on the line during the pandemic. There’s an unpalatable pattern here. Now, for the first time in my life, I am seriously considering quitting my job as a nurse in the NHS. Clapping is all very nice, but it does nothing to help towards funding a mortgage on a first home. I could earn more working for the local ASDA. Get off that fence, Mr Baker, and tell your constituents whether you support an above inflation pay rise for all NHS careworkers. Yes or no?

Fiona Gibb, Marlow

Constituent must be mistaken

I think Carol McCulloch made a weak reply in today’s BFP to Mike Duckett’s letter, two weeks ago, about the deeds and views of Steve Baker (‘MP is not a risk-taker, he is brave’, BFP letters, March 12).

Can Ms McCulloch explain to ‘the people of Wycombe’ what they are going to get from Brexit that was promised by ‘forthright’ Mr Baker during the 2016 referendum or in the ‘oven-ready Brexit’ promised in 2019?

‘The people of Wycombe’ didn’t give Steve Baker ‘a greatly increased majority at the last election’ or the one before - in 2017 he was elected with a reduced majority and again in 2019 when his existing majority was further reduced by almost 5%.

Currently Wycombe is listed (a bit optimistically) by the Labour Party as marginal.

Steve is a libertarian, quoted in the Daily Telegraph last May, calling coronavirus restrictions: ‘absurd, dystopian and tyrannical’ and, in the BFP last October, saying he had: ‘… heard from people devastated by the effect the restrictions have had on their business … and also by some who are concerned about personal liberty being constrained’.

The failure of a business - devastating though that may be - hardly equals the devastation caused by death from Covid-19 and putting personal liberty together with business failure in a time of epidemic when the lives of large numbers of people are at stake is really a form of self-indulgence. Nor has our liberty been ‘snatched away without consultation…’

There is no reason to expect the emergency restrictions to continue after the pandemic has ended. Last October Steve himself said: ‘… 103 Acts of Parliament have enabled 256 statutory instruments related to the disease. Rapid alteration to the rules have been commonplace, changing almost 200 times since March.’

One-hundred and three Acts does not seem liberty-snatching ‘without consultation or scrutiny’ and the 200 rule changes could be attributed to ceaseless complaints from people like Baker who seem more concerned about the concept of personal liberty than the fact of surviving a public health crisis.

Ms McCulloch is surely mistaken when she says Baker’s CRG affiliation is a risk to his ‘future political career’ and that this indicates ‘bravery’. Mr Baker is clearly a maverick authoritarian, conservative theorist, more than a career politician and natural leader – he would rather be correct on a lonely prominence, than be a pragmatist running a government department.

Baker’s affiliation to the ERG and then the CRG confirms Mike Duckett’s quote that leaving the EU has ‘left a Brexit-shaped hole in his life. He has to oppose something’.

After his first election in 2010 Baker was among the top ten Tory rebels of the year, listed on the Conservative Home website, and when he was given a junior ministerial role in the DExEU he resigned almost immediately, one of a long list of Brexit zealots who could not actually accomplish the thing they had ignorantly supported for so long.

Steve does borderline unsafe things (that many other people do), physical, like biking and skydiving, or political, like occasionally rebelling in a Commons vote, on his own for his own satisfaction and with assistance from others.

Mike Duckett has Baker’s number - or at least most of the digits.

Lawrence Linehan, Wooburn Green

‘Calling MP brave is inappropriate’

I am writing in regard to the letter published in BFP’s edition of March 12 stating that Steve Baker is not a risk taker, he is brave.

The writer of that letter is perfectly entitled to be a supporter of Mr Baker, but using the word brave is completely inappropriate. We are living in unprecedented times of Covid-19 and the word brave cannot be applied to Mr Baker but to the courageous men and women of front-line key services who have in the last 12 months risked and laid down their lives in order to help and protect ... US. Mr Baker has not.

Now let’s turn to whether he is a risk taker in regard to the pandemic. Mr Baker’s views on the need for lockdowns are very well known. It can’t be disputed that the Covid Recovery Group (CRG), of which he is deputy chair (and not Chairman of the Coronavirus Recovery Group as contained in the letter last week), reflects his personal views throughout the pandemic. The CRG does not believe in the Government relying on the advice provided by its scientists such as SAGE, and wants them to be challenged by competitive, multi-disciplinary expert groups.

On 22 November 2020, the CRG wrote to Boris Johnson, saying they would only support further lockdown measures if the government published analysis showing that benefits of the lockdown exceeded the costs, stating that there was a risk that the costs of the lockdown exceeded any benefit and that the Government had a burden to show that any restrictions were necessary. In January of this year, the CRG told Boris Johnson that his “leadership will be on the table” if he did not publish an exit strategy for the current lockdown.

In December 2020 Mr Baker said it is clear that lockdowns and increasingly severe tiered restrictions have so far failed in their goal of slowing the transmission of Covid. If you think this is a flawed statement, then the absence and continued delays of lockdown restrictions would have incurred even more horrendous loss of life and much deeper economic damage.

Whilst Mr Baker is not directly to blame for the Governments slow and costly response in March 2020 to bringing in the first lockdown, nevertheless since then, he, along with others, has sought to pressurise Boris Johnson to loosen restrictions and de facto not follow the science. For whatever reason, this has certainly influenced Johnson to loosen restrictions far too early and in August and September to ignore the statistics leading up to the horrific mistake of ignoring SAGE’S advice given on 21 September 2020 for immediate interventions to be taken.

So, the consistent argument for not having such lockdown restrictions is exactly the risk being rolled out as some kind of panacea for protecting lives and also the economy. On 6 January 2020, Parliament was recalled early to debate and vote on what were the new lockdown restrictions. The approval was given by 525 MPs voting in favour with 16 against. Mr Baker chose not to vote - such bravery!

Whatever your view on lockdown restrictions, the stance taken by Mr Baker is indeed fraught with risk which then leads to whether it is merely foolhardy or in fact dangerous.

Stephen Wildman, Chesham