The Spectator

Letters: Rod Liddle is on the side of experts

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Work to do

Sir: I agree with Kate Andrews’s diagnosis: the nation’s mental health is appalling and a major barrier to our economic prosperity (‘Sick list’, 24 February). I agree with her criticism of the treatment offered by the health service: we are failing to restore people to working health.

Antidepressants are handed out like sweets while provision of talking therapy falls woefully short. What is missing from her otherwise excellent analysis is a consideration of aetiology. The pandemic unmasked, so to speak, but did not itself cause, a dearth of interpersonal connection in our society. We must all take responsibility for landing ourselves in this mess, and for finding a way out of it.

Dr Richard Thomson

Morpeth, Northumberland

Temple of delights

 Sir: Charles Moore (Notes, 17 February) applauds the variety of the 1924 Exhibition’s pavilions, citing among other examples Burma’s temple. In the 1950s, when I was a teenager, the temple was in our garden in Hampshire, where my parents had started a school, and it regularly formed an unusual backdrop to school plays and other activities.

Apparently the then chairman of Burmah Oil had bought the temple, conveniently prefabricated, after the exhibition closed, and had it re-erected and glazed, to serve as a summerhouse in the garden of Stanbridge Earls, his country house near Romsey. The school folded a decade or so ago, after my parents’ deaths, and the house has since become the nucleus of a ‘retirement village’. I hope the temple is still there, something strange and exotic, in the garden.

Richard Thomas

Wye, Kent

Citizens’ smokescreen

Sir: Citizens’ assemblies are not always a terrible idea (‘No focus’, 24 February). However, as well as the risk that those setting them up manipulate them to elicit the response they want, there is also the risk that they are used to justify the policy they want, even if the citizens’ assembly said something very different.

In the London Borough of Camden, the council held a citizens’ assembly on the evening and night-time economy to help it develop a strategy. The assembly concluded there should be a balance between the needs of businesses and residents, but the strategic vision being proposed has omitted the need for balance entirely. It seems to us that citizens’ assemblies can be used by politicians to promote controversial policies. People seldom look at the detailed report, while politicians say: ‘We have done lots of engagement so it must be the right answer.’ Citizens’ assemblies are only part of a democratic process, not a replacement for it.

David Kaner

Volunteer chair, licensing sub-committee,

Covent Garden community association

Smart but stupid

Sir: Rod Liddle objects to children having access to smartphones (‘Kids and smartphones: an inconvenient truth’, 24 February). He is for once on the side of real experts. Neither Bill Gates nor Steve Jobs had any doubts on the subject. Jobs felt it was ‘too dangerous’ for his children to be allowed iPads in the house; Gates denied his children smartphones until they were 14. There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that Jobs was asked whether he agreed the iPhone was addictive. He replied that he expected so, since he had designed it to be.

Gordon Bonnyman

Frant, East Sussex

Heavenly marriage

Sir: Conservative evangelicals hold that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and is the only proper context for sexual intimacy (Letters, 24 February). The corollary is that gay men and women are mandated to be celibate, but this contradicts another traditional Christian view: that celibacy should be accepted only by those to whom it is given as a gift (Matthew 19).

This contradiction is resolved if marriage is extended to gay couples, and more members of the C of E now support this reform than oppose it. Perhaps there are not quite so many evangelical bums on seats as Dr Goodfellow imagines.

Dr Michael Pounds


The hounds of war

Sir: I grew up in the countryside. My father was a professional hunt servant – a somewhat archaic term these days. I learned to ride at the age of four and was riding to hounds at the age of nine. I fully endorse Charles Moore’s view of hunting (Notes, 24 February). As he suggests, it forms part of the fabric of the British countryside and, despite the Labour party’s decisive position, is inclusive and embraces all aspects of the local community. Despite his plea, no Labour MP will visit a hunt and talk to the staff or supporters. They are still fighting a class war that no longer exists. Across the country, hunting provides employment for thousands, either directly or indirectly. This is something Labour chooses to ignore.

There are some in the countryside who do not support hunting; that is their prerogative. It should, however, be noted that the banning of hunting foxes and deer has not improved animal welfare. To the contrary, their numbers have burgeoned and alternative methods of culling frequently result in a painful and lingering death. Of course, welfare was nothing more than a ploy to further the Labour party agenda.

Dr Alf Crossman

Rudgwick, West Sussex

Stress ball

Sir: I would go further than Mark Mason’s claim that listening to Test cricket is an antidepressant (‘Testing times’, 24 February): it engenders a stoicism, especially in the face of a slow defeat. When an Aussie commentator uses that rare Strayan understatement – ‘That’s pretty ordinary’ – about an English player’s performance, we know how much trouble we are in.

Struan Macdonald

Hayes, Kent