Comment // Culture & Media

Letters to the Editor: Spring 2023

Shove ha'penny

Please find enclosed one of the pre-decimal halfpennies minted in 1967 that I am now giving to interested (or should-be-interested) people.

The idea grew from when I purchased a whole bunch of them during lockdown. I was going to turn them into guitar picks, just for something to do.

I first came across card-only purchasing at Caffè Nero in Tunbridge Wells during the first lockdown, where, after I had ordered a coffee, they refused my cash. So I left the drink they had poured, and—as I had some of these halfpennies in my pocket—I gave the person behind the counter one to remind them what cash was.

A few months later at the Boat House pub in Yalding, after ordering a pint, I went to pay with cash and was informed that they did not accept cash. When I asked why, I was informed that as the pub is out in the sticks, it was safer for them not to carry cash.

I took my beer and gave the barmaid cash and asked her to put the purchase on her card. After finishing my beer, I returned my glass and gave the barmaid and two other staff a halfpenny, to remind them what cash was.

I try to use cash where possible. Obviously, it is not possible to do that with online purchases, so now, whenever I get asked, “Cash or card?”, I will give them a halfpenny to remind them what cash is. It generally puts a smile on their faces, which does the same for me. The coins are uncirculated and shiny, and people seem to like free stuff.

I have been visiting your website for sometime now, so if I get talking to anyone about what’s going on, I do try to guide them towards your website. But as pencil and paper is not always available for me to write down your website address, people will generally forget what it is if I just tell them. Therefore, I thought the idea of coin-holding cards would make these halfpennies more likely to be kept and looked at.

I believe that waking people up to what is happening around them could slow down negative developments, and possibly even stop them if everyone is awake. Most people who are awake will ask what they can do to make a difference—my thought is they they can wake more people up.

It doesn’t come easy to find out that the rules you were taught on playing the game of life from an early age are not being applied and never have been. I am an Old Age Pensioner now, and I was fooled for many years, and probably still am on lots of things.

S. Carroll, West Kent


Sloughing off despondency

I always watched UK Column as a kind of confirmation tool, if you will. But I was lazy. I had convinced myself that my productive days were over, that nothing could be done, that there was still a political solution within the UK if only people would awake to the reality of their lives. Never did I ever consider that the biggest obstacle was the awakening of the public itself from its ignorant sloth!

And so I sat in the very same slumber as everyone else. I watched Brian et al. but did not see. I listened to Alex and admired David's erudition, but I did not hear! I had all the pieces of the jigsaw collected from my life experience before me, and was too damn lazy to put them together! I was sitting around waiting to die! Too wrapped up in the vagaries of life that were being thrown at my family to be bothered by anything else.

My road to Damascus began when the authorities knocked on the door and tried it on. Only then did the penny drop! Only then did I have the picture to help me put the jigsaw together. Only then could I look back and see my 'career' for what it had truly been! Only then did I begin to read with purpose again (there was much to make up for). Only then did I realise that knowledge was my best defence, and so began to re-educate myself. Only then did my eyesight clear. And UK Column became my constant companion and hope. 

Without UK Column, it wouldn't have happened, my life purpose would not have been restored, nor the the light be burning half as strong.So I am excited by what is to come and any future expansion for the Column. I have never fooled myself into thinking it is anything other than a numbers game with the oppressor. So the more, the very much the merrier. And there's a sense of optimism. A rolling wheel is easier to push, after all; but there's still a long way to go. But now there's traction and momentum!

So well done and thank you, UK Column, and I'll heave as hard as I can in the most grateful effort I can muster.

Name withheld


No, No and No

We received the below responses from viewer Willie to the current British consultations on digital ID, road user charging and the digital pound.


Digital ID

Data sharing should either improve a service or provide a benefit. Does it?

The proposal seeks to move all personal data into one place, giving multiple governmental departments access to a wide array of personal information. Although the consultation claims this is for a benefit, for people who are concerned about autonomy and privacy, this is a shocking assault on our basic freedoms. Many people can see that what might start as an innocent sharing of data could easily be manipulated to become a tool of of an overreaching right wing government, and the people are right to be concerned at this consultation.

Does the data sharing improve the wellbeing of individuals?

I feel very strongly that my personal data should not be shared by multiple government departments. This represents a data risk and a privacy risk. In my opinion, if one department needs to access certain parts of my data then it should be irrelevant to other departments. I strongly disagree with this proposal; this is the sort of digital system that one would find in a tyrannical regime.

Does data sharing support administration and enforcement?

Citizens should feel they are free to move around the country and conduct themselves without the constant scrutiny of the Government electronically monitoring movements. I believe this scheme will have a detrimental effect on the mental health of the nation.

Should the Cabinet Office, Department for Transport, DEFRA and the DBS all share your data for public service delivery?

Giving data-sharing powers over individual identity to the Cabinet Office [the central hub of government that wields reserve Crown powers], DVLA [the driving licence issuing body], DEFRA [the agriculture ministry] and DBS [the criminal records checking service] is an assault on our privacy and could easily lead to restrictions of movement. These departments have no need to share data, when they haven't had the need before—for example, the DBS system has for many years failed at protecting children and minors from predatory adults. The focus should be on making sure that individual departments are doing an adequate job with the data that they have, not burdening them with access to information that is irrelevant to the task that they require.

Should the Cabinet Office, Department for Transport, DEFRA and the DBS all share your data for public service delivery?

As I have noted in my above response, these government departments should not have access to the same digital ID documents because it would be far too easy for this information to be used in nefarious and restrictive ways by an overreaching government with bad intent.

Should any other public bodies have access to personal data?

I do not wish for any government departments to be privy to, have access to or view any of my personal data that is not directly necessary for the function of that department. Everything over and above the basic requirements is, in my opinion, a contravention of my basic rights.

Are the 'data items—attributes' consistent with the objective?

The data items themselves are incredibly private and should not be shared between government departments In any way. There is no need or requirement for any of this information to be shared between departments. There is no limitation in place on the photos that are associated with the 'attributes' and there is no need for any government department to have access to my photos, my income or my address history. This is a contravention of my privacy and could easily be used in nefarious ways by a government with bad intentions.

Will this ID system result in anyone losing any benefits?

People do not want to share a lot of personal information. Not everyone has the technical ability to fill forms in online. Older people do not want to log in to anything online, and an inability or unwillingness to engage with this new 'digital ID' could result in people losing benefits—people should not be coerced into participating in a government ID system that they do not want to be a part of.

Will this ID system result in anyone an individual or household losing access to any benefits?

As with my reply to the above question, people who do not wish to be a part of this government ID should not be punished financially or otherwise because they don't want their ID shared between departments.

Will this scheme impact all people equally as per the Equality Act 2010?

No. I think a scheme that shares a wide array of personal data between multiple government departments will do a great deal of harm to the mental health of the nation. There is no need for this scheme, and no desire for it from the public.

Your final notes

In the light of this survey, the fact that it has not been advertised, the fact that we have not had a year-long consultation where we could discuss in village halls and civic centres with councillors, and the fact that this is being slipped in online where nobody really knows about it make me very suspicious of the motives behind the consultation. This is a democratic country, the people should have the right to vote on big decisions like this, and the consultation should be visible and long-term—not published quietly on New Year's Day and run for a short period. This is a disgrace.


Road user charging

Do the current road user charging systems in London require reform?

No. We have the ULEZ [Ultra Low Emissions Zone], which has already impacted people enough. What we need now is NO MORE CHARGING MOTORISTS TO GO ABOUT THEIR DAY. People are stressed and poor, thanks to the state of the economy and the impact of the last few years. We need LESS regulation and monitoring. Let the people recover.

How might smarter road user charging differ from the current daily charges for driving applied in London?

Instead of proposing new systems, adjust the old systems. For example, the daily charge stops at midnight, meaning someone who is visiting between 10 pm and 2 am pays twice. Fix that first.

How might charges for driving in London be varied for different types of journeys, such as travelling for work, caring responsibilities or essential services?

You should not have to pay extra whether you are travelling for work, for caring or for essential services. We already pay fuel duty, which is a cost per mile, as you pay more if you drive more. We don't need any more road charging systems; people are already on their knees.

What strategies and targets could smarter road user charging support?

Why don't we look at the health and happiness of the nation instead of spurious targets?

What technology could be used to support smarter road user charging?

Human beings want LESS technology intruding in their lives, not more.

How could smarter road user charging assist with tackling current challenges such as traffic, air pollution and climate change?

The London Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) is already doing this. The people don't want any more. We are taxed via Vehicle Excise Duty on emissions, electric cars have been incentivised, enough is enough.

Are road user charging schemes best set up at a city or regional level, or as a national system, and what benefits or difficulties would you expect with either approach?

We already have a road user charging at a national level: it's called ROAD TAX and FUEL DUTY. We do not need any more. Why not reduce the road tax on older vehicles that have been around for many years and have paid their own carbon dues by remaining in use instead of being replaced by another brand new car (most of the carbon in cars is in the BUILD)?

If smarter road user charging is introduced, which charges or taxes should it replace and how should the current taxes and charges be changed?

It shouldn't. The people writing this report should focus on the health of the nation, not on more ways to price people out of driving their cars and visiting family.

What discounts and exemptions would you like to see for any new smarter road charging scheme, for example to help disabled people, those on low incomes, those who need to drive for work, or people who live in areas with low levels of public transport?

We the people do not want a road charging scheme, especially when it is sold to us by the likes of Sadiq Khan, who is currently promoting a ULEZ expansion whilst taking his dog for a walk in a three-car convoy, one of which does 13 miles per gallon. Less hypocrisy, more understanding, please.

If the Government were interested in a national distance-based road user charging scheme, would London be a sensible place for a trial?

No. Nowhere is a sensible place for a trial. This is starting to look like a work of dystopian fiction. Let the people be free.

If distance-based road user charging was introduced, do you think Londoners who drive should pay less in total for vehicle or driving-based charges, the same, or more than they do currently?

They would all pay more. It would cost many, many people dearly.

Mayors and local authorities currently have powers to introduce new road charging schemes. Do you think anything further is required beyond an
electoral mandate for these bodies to use those powers (for example a
local referendum)?

All of these new schemes should be put to a public vote like any good democratic country would do—anything else is the work of a dictatorship.

How are other cities and countries working on similar smarter road user charging ideas faring, and what alternatives are they looking at for achieving similar policy goals?

Firstly, we the people did not have a say on the policy goals. Give the people the chance to vote on the policy, then give us the chance to vote on the road charging scheme. Anything else is a dictatorship.


Digital pound

Do you have comments on how trends in payments may evolve and the opportunities and risks that they may entail?

Everything in life has risk. It is what makes us alive. Although people are paying with contactless and payment apps such as PayPal, the lifeblood of our day-to-day finance is debit banking and cash—the way it has always been done, and we don't want that changed.

Do you have comments on our proposition for the roles and responsibilities of private sector digital wallets as set out in the platform model? Do you agree that private sector digital wallet providers should not hold end users' funds directly on their balance sheets?

I don't agree with private sector companies holding my money on their balance sheet, but I absolutely don't agree with central government holding my money on a balance sheet. Neither is good for the consumer, but given the choice, I'd side with the private sector over the government on the basis of trust, and which of the two is more likely to use my funds against me.

Do you agree that the Bank [of England] should not have access to users' personal data, but instead see anonymised transaction data and aggregated system-wide data for the running of the core ledger? What views do you have on a privacy-enhancing digital pound?

Neither the Bank nor the Government should see anything more than anonymised transaction data. I see no requirement for a digital pound at all and have no intention of using it.

What are your views on the provision and utility of tiered access to the digital pound that is linked to user identity information?

This is the sort of thing that conspiracy theorists have been warning us about for deuces. This is the stuff of nightmares. Tiered access to your money, linked to your digital ID? Giving the Government the ability to switch on your digital bank with your digital ID only gives the the power to switch it off, and I have no intention of being involved with that.

What views do you have on the embedding of privacy-enhancing techniques to give users more control of the level of privacy that they can ascribe to their personal transactions data?

My honest opinion on this is that 99.9% of the public have no idea about the level of privacy their bank has, and there is nothing wrong with this. This question sounds like it's a back door for biometrics—which, again, is the realm of conspiracy theories but definitely seems concerning in the context.

Do you have comments on our proposal that in-store, online and person-to-person payments should be highest priority payments in scope? Are any other payments in scope which need further work?

None of these things need to be in scope.

What do you consider to be the appropriate level of limits on individual's holdings in transition? Do you agree with our proposed limits within the £10,000–£20,000 range? Do you have views on the benefits and risks of a lower limit, such as £5,000?

So long as the digital pound is optional, it doesn't matter. I know I am not alone in saying I want nothing to do with a central bank digital currency (CBDC), no matter what the limits.

Considering our proposal for limits on individual holdings, what views do you have on how corporates' use of digital pounds should be managed in transition? Should all corporates be able to hold digital pounds, or should some corporates be restricted?

I do not agree with a digital pound. The whole idea with a currency is that it is founded on something tangible—otherwise it is a fiat currency, a fake currency. A digital pound has no grounding; it is worthless.

Do you have comments on our proposal that non-UK residents should have access to the digital pound, on the same basis as UK residents?

See my comment above.

Given our primary motivations, does our proposed design for the digital pound meet its objectives?

What exactly are the primary motivations? Why does the pound need to become digital, other than to increase governmental control of individual wealth and assets?

Which design choices should we consider in order to support financial inclusion?

No comment.

The Bank [of England] and HM Treasury will have due regard to the public sector equality duty, including considering the impact of proposals for the design of the digital pound on those who share protected characteristics, as provided by the Equality Act 2010. 

Please indicate if you believe any of the proposals in this Consultation Paper are likely to impact persons who share such protected characteristics and, if so, please explain which groups of persons, what the impact on such groups might be and if you have any views on how impact could be mitigated.

As with other current consultations, they make no provision for people who wish to be left alone, people who don't want to be a digital cog in a digital machine, people who just wish to remain as they are without having constant government meddling in their day to day lives, whether that's driving, finance or identification. These consultations need to factor in an ability for the human being to JUST SAY NO and refuse to be involved in any of these schemes that are alleged to be for the good of the nation.

The digital pound, digital ID and road charging consultations are all very, very small steps from being the framework that a tyrannical government needs to completely control the people—and as such, I reserve the right to refuse my involvement in this.