Dental care: I read with interest the article “NHS responds to dentistry concerns” (D&S Times Co Durham edition, Dec 22).

The headline suggests the NHS are responsible for poor service or supply of dental services, when nothing could be further from the truth.

The blame for the failure of dental care and the fall in free at source of supply dentistry, rests squarely with the incumbent ruling political party, the Conservatives.

Once again a dramatic reduction in funding from the top leaves the working family with no choice but to try somehow find the money to care for that family’s health.

Free dentistry at source for the over 60s and those in full time education is an absolute minimum requirement, this government have failed in that simple task.

This is an open request then, further to next year’s general election, to any member of any political party, to tell us, the people affected, what, when in power, they will do about this appalling state of affairs.

I look forward to their replies, through clenched teeth, while I still have them.

Richard Baker, Middleton One Row.

Christmas lights

I REALLY had to put pen to paper in praise of Thirsk’s Christmas lights and the lovely tree.

When I’ve said to people – please come and look at our lovely display we have lights around the whole town they didn’t believe me – but as we know it’s perfectly true.

Our beautiful tree is so much better than the one in Trafalgar Square which I gather this year had some branches missing!

Plus of course, the absolutely wonderful knitting.

This all adds up to Thirsk looking so lovely – do come and see it.

I’ve lived here 20 years now and as well as Christmas it’s a lovely happy place to live, so glad I live here.

Betty Woodhams, Thirsk.

Iron Curtain

IS it time for a Western Iron Curtain?

Our systems in the west may not be perfect but, as Churchill said, they are better than any known alternative. These attitudes of tolerance and compassion did not arise by accident.

They were hard won on the battlefield; on the gallows and the burning stakes of religious and political intolerance.

At Peterloo, through the resolve of the suffragettes and the Jarrow marchers.

Those sacrifices have allowed us to design and maintain standards such as outlined in the UN asylum convention, European Convention of Human Rights etc.

All designed for reasonable people to use reasonably.

Unfortunately not all nations in this world aspire to the same, or are reasonable.

This has recently been pointed out by our own Prime Minister and before that the Foreign Minister of Italy.

Tragically the small criminal gangs of people smugglers have provided the enemies of our state with an ideal model increasingly easy to exploit in the coming years.

Already the relatively small but increasing numbers are creating disharmony within western Europe, with every election changing its political complexion.

Sub-Saharan Africa provides the largest potential source of migrants. According to the UN by 2030 one quarter of all the world’s under fives will be living in the region.

Those same figures suggest the fastest growing population in the world, which is already twice the size of that of Europe.

Most of those countries are burdened with constant shortages of food – likely to get worse; terrifyingly violent internal religious and political conflicts and coups from the Horn of Africa to the Atlantic coast.

In a few years’ time our current issue with small boats crossing our channel will pale into insignificance.

The semi open door policy, however idealistic, increasingly looks like the same appeasement policies which left us so poorly prepared for war in 1939.

Learn from history or we repeat its mistakes.

John Hutchinson, Brompton on Swale.

One good turn

NIGEL BODDY chronicles the relationships between successive British kings and their equally disagreeable male heirs, “Tale as old at time” (D&S letters, Dec 8).

Alas, bracketing Queen Victoria and her daughter, Vicky, with the other does not quite work as their long correspondence, though sometime strained, testifies.

That Victoria was envious Vicky was an empress while she herself was not, is quite flawed.

Vicky became empress of Germany briefly for the short time her husband, Friedrich III, reigned in 1888, Dreikaiserjahr.

Victoria herself had already been created Empress of India by the Royal Titles Act of 1876 on the initiative of Mr Disraeli who promptly collected his earldom and provoked John Tenniel’s Punch cartoon, “One good turn deserves another”.

J Fyles, Sowerby.

Israeli attacks

IN the letter “War In Gaza” by Brian Tyldesley (D&S letters, Dec 8), he claims, “Israel believes that Palestine was given them by God over 2,000 years ago”.

It wasn’t known as “Palestine” then, it was spitefully titled such by the cruel Romans upon the Jews’ exile from their land.

Please don’t equate Israel’s claim to the land to the “divine right of European kings and queens”. Israel’s existence predates much further than 2,000 years.

Think back on the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Hamas is more sinister than a mere “ruling party”, although it was voted in by the Gazans. Some rightly claim it is a proxy of Iran which rules its own land by cruel dictatorial theocracy.

Hamas’ murder, beheadings and rape of innocent Israelis on October 7 justifies Israel’s war.

Did we get permission to seek retaliation on Hitler’s attacks on us?

Bethany-Megan Robinson, Darlington.

Banking credit

THIS year has been a challenging one for financial institutions, and many have been criticised for their policies involving the ruthless closure of branches.

However, in November, I approached six financial organisations in Northallerton asking them to actively support Prostate Cancer UK’s campaign to save men’s lives, and enhance the quality of family life, via earlier diagnosis through testing.

To their credit all six responded positively via posters on community noticeboards, window displays or in one case allowing awareness cards, badges and collection cans in the branch.

My sincere thanks to Barclays Bank, Santander Bank, Nat West, Yorkshire Building Society, Skipton Building Society and Darlington Building Society for their support and active help towards improving the quality of life in the local community.

Best wishes to all for 2024.

John Dodds, volunteer, Prostate Cancer UK.

Electoral reform

I AM writing to express my strong support for proportional representation in UK general elections.

Our current first past the post system results in steamroller politics, where the party whip is used to enforce the will of the party with the majority – leaving the rest of the voters disempowered.

Millions of votes are wasted every election, with smaller parties and independent candidates – and those who support them – without any power to influence decisions that impact on our daily lives. Both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer recognise that politics is failing to deliver for all its citizens.

Yet neither is proposing serious solutions to the problem.

We can’t call ourselves a true democracy unless we embrace a fairer, more representative system that truly reflects the diversity of our society and in which every vote counts. Proportional representation would give every voter a voice and break the current two-party stalemate.

It would lead to more diverse and inclusive parliaments, enable a wider range of voices to be heard, and make communication and negotiation across parties on important issues essential. I urge all political parties to prioritise electoral reform and to work together to make proportional representation a reality in the UK.

If you truly want to represent the people, then give us all the power to elect MPs who will have to work together, across party lines, for the good of us all.

Sue Lister, Dunnington, York.

Illegal entrants

I WAS interested to listen to what the Labour parliamentary candidate for Darlington had to say on BBC’s Politics North recently.

Lola McEvoy’s comment about illegal immigration spoke volumes, “I don’t think our backbenchers will be as obsessed with this issue [illegal immigration] as the Conservatives.”

Aside from the honesty from Lola that Labour are not interested in stopping illegal migrants entering this country, taking millions from taxpayers and funding organised crime, I was left quite dejected by this.

Shouldn’t Labour be “obsessed” about protecting our borders and stamping out the illegal crime of people smuggling?

We need a party who will be bold enough to turn the boats around and send them back to France and take us out of the ECHR.

Only this will stop these criminal acts.

Michael Walker, Darlington.

Stay local for reviews

IN reply to Libby Harding’s comment about “hopeless reporting” (D&S Times letters, Dec 15) on my thoughts on the Eating Out review on fast food giant McDonalds, perhaps she is looking forward to a review on the 70-year-old global multi-billion dollar American company that is Burger King when it gets built in Northallerton.

Surely the point of the Eating Out page is to give a favourable (or not) review on a local restaurant, pub or cafe.

D&S, you are our local paper after all.

Hannah Dawson, Northallerton.

Red skies at night

THE recent Grindavik volcanic eruption in Iceland could create some interesting side effects.

Might particles of dust in the stratosphere and sulphuric acid droplets hurled up to 12 to 18 miles into the air possibly induce deeply red sunsets?

However, all this pollution – including that from the bombing of Ukraine and the latest Gaza destruction – can only be detrimental to our breathing health. PPE, anyone?

Phil Shepherdson, York.

Water works worry

THE Darlington council planning committee has given the go ahead to build over a thousand new houses in the town.

Can the planning committee confirm that the Stressholme sewage treatment plant, built in the 1930s, with one overhaul in 2010, can cope, or will the extra sewage overflow into our rivers?

Stan Wilby, Darlington.