IN the 1980s there was a horrible recurrence of Tory MPs aiming to demonstrate how generous the welfare benefits system was by living off a claimant’s income. Usually their demonstration lasted a matter of days.

Famously Mathew Parris tried, and failed uselessly, to live on benefits but refused to say payments were too low. Later Ian Duncan Smith flirted with the notion and in 1986 Piers Merchant and family tried it in Newcastle upon Tyne where I lived. The most cringe-worthy moment came when his wife complained she’d been unable to afford avocados...

All seemed to deliberately miss the point that even if they could manage on benefits – Merchant could not – for a week, this took no account of the grinding misery and uncertainty of knowing that it stretches into the future. And most claimants do not have independent wealth, comfortably-off families, savings or an MP’s salary to return to.

Now we have another batch of Tory MPs refusing to see the obvious cruel horrors of their new Universal Credit system.

I suggest they do my “Avocado Test”. To make the test really comparable, we take MPs off their salaries AND allowances. They get nothing for three months (to try to proportionately mimic the minimum three weeks for which destitute claimants will be expected to live on thin air). Then they go back onto a new payment system we’ll call ‘”Grudging Taxpayers’ Money” which would obviously be at a much lower level than they were previously on. Plus they can borrow against the new payments while they are living on nothing, so they begin the new system in debt – just like Universal Credit. OK?

Amanda Baker

READ MORE: MP Frank Field says Universal Credit is forcing women to turn to sex work

I READ Carolyn Leckie’s column on the Gender Recognition Act with concern, especially given the tone of the rhetoric currently being employed that targets trans people (Questioning gender law isn’t a form of transphobia, October 15).

There is no reason why we should not be having nuanced, careful discussions about the GRA and what it means – and, crucially, what it doesn’t mean – but that wasn’t the reason Ann Henderson was criticised. The event she shared was an innocuous-sounding “discussion”, but it was hosted by three groups known for their cruelty to trans people. It wasn’t a debate, and nuance and sensitivity are largely absent from their statements.

We should be having healthy discussions which give people the information and insights they need – many women, for example, feel the GRA (and trans people in general) reinforces stereotypes of gender roles and expressions which we have spent our lives trying to dismantle.

However, what many people don’t realise is that access to life-saving, critical services for trans people is often only granted if they adhere to the most extreme stereotypes – for trans women, they frequently have to have long hair, wear skirts, dresses, heels and make-up and speak softly to be considered “committed enough” to receive help. It’s a deeply unfair, cruel thing to insist on because, as we know, it isn’t dresses or make-up that make you a woman. GRA reform will help dismantle this nonsensical ideology, and give trans people the ability to be as varied as cis people are while still being able to access the services they need. Other places have already implemented this, and the sky hasn’t fallen.

Groups hosting events to put out misinformation and scare stories about predators coming for your children should have been treated the same way we treat those same arguments about gay people.

It isn’t discussion we are critical of. Insisting there’s some shadowy powerful trans lobby is bizarre – it isn’t very good at its job if it exists, given the shocking mainstream cruelty and the continued life-threatening marginalisation of trans people, who are much more likely to be homeless, to live in poverty and to be victims of violence than the general population.

I hope people will read up on the GRA from sources other than anti-trans lobby groups, and realise that it is vital legislation to protect a small but persecuted minority in our country.

Fiona Robertson
Address supplied

READ MORE: Questioning gender law is not a form of transphobia​

I HAVE always thought it a failing when any organisation’s internal process for investigating complaints can be terminated when the individual under investigation chooses to resign. This is true of Police Scotland. The investigation into complaints against its former Chief Constable, Phil Gormley, ended when he resigned earlier this year.

I wonder, however, now that Mr Gormley has a new post as inspector of constabulary in England and he is back on the public payroll, whether there should not be a mechanism whereby the public sector’s investigatory process can be re-started. I am sure Mr Gormley would welcome this opportunity to have his name cleared.

I think it also legitimate to ask whether Mr Gormley’s former employer was approached for a reference for his new post.

Gavin Brown

READ MORE: New top job for former police chief Phil Gormley who left amid bullying investigation​