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Spectator letters: A GP’s cry of distress and a defence of Stephen Hawking

Plus: we aren’t all sneaks; and the brothers of the fictionalised Alan Turing

17 January 2015

9:00 AM

17 January 2015

9:00 AM

Dreadful treatment

Sir: I worked as a GP through the Thatcher, Major, Blair, and Brown eras, apart from a spell as an A&E doctor, and never experienced such a depressing and worrying time for the NHS as now (‘Wrong diagnosis’, 10 January). There was frequently strain on the service from underfunding, but not the crisis we are now experiencing across the country, proving to me fundamental mismanagement and policy errors.

When this government finally revealed its NHS ‘reforms’, which were kept quiet before the 2010 election, I was convinced the health service was under great threat, and that the electorate was being deviously misled. This crisis was predicted in the risk register, which Andrew Lansley refused to publish. It is a direct result of the cuts, closures, mergers, reduction in beds, insufficient staff and chaotic management; above all, it is the result of those in charge knowing the cost of everything but the value of nothing. They have been driven by the misguided ideology of marketisation. A study from Keele University estimates that £10 billion a year is wasted — enough to adequately plug the funding gap.

The NHS has been chronically underfunded since 1948, but I have never before thought those in charge wanted to destroy it. If this government is given another term, it will be able to finish the job. The great British public must wake up to what they are about to lose.
Dr Paul Hobday
Tonbridge, Kent

Sneaks on the line

Sir: Matthew Parris worries that we have all turned into sneaks (10 January). I enjoy Graham Norton as well, both as an agony aunt in print and on the radio; but I suspect that the ‘holier than thou’ reaction about whether or not to report to the police someone who has had too much to drink at a dinner party is due more to the type of person who phones in. I reckon if you ask a random 20 Brits in the street, you would get the more mixed and liberal response Matthew Parris was expecting.
Annabel von Hofmannsthal

Great men, bad husbands

Sir: All men have failings and great men often have great failings (‘The physics widow’, 10 January). A question that has for long engaged me is whether a great man is great because of his failings or in spite of them. Horatio Nelson treated his wife badly and betrayed the hospitality and trust of Hamilton but was undoubtedly a very great man. Would that vision, courage and singleness of purpose which made him a superb leader of men have been possible if he had set a higher priority on being a caring and faithful husband? Is this a conflict sited deep in male psychology?

I am afraid great men seem often to fall short of Tanya Gold’s standards and perhaps Stephen Hawking is one of them; but could he have been other than he is?
Revd John Leaworthy

Sad professor

Sir: Toby Young has uncharacteristically failed to recognise that the Turing of The Imitation Game is a new example of the time-honoured mad professor (‘Autism and the Turing fallacy’, 10 January). We see this type in the endless repeats of The Big Bang Theory, in which the character Sheldon Cooper demonstrates all the characteristics of this Turing: rudeness, vanity, naivety and intellectual brilliance.

I note there was also a recent successful TV adaptation of Professor Branestawm, much-loved eccentric boffin of my youth. Then there is Back to the Future, with Christopher Lloyd’s memorable performance as the mad genius and DeLorean-loving Dr Emmett Brown. I don’t think there’s any call for outrage merely because The Imitation Game isn’t as funny as these other works.
Wynn Wheldon
London NW6

Talking Irish

Sir: Perhaps Mark Mason’s call centre operative was Irish (‘Get over yourself’, 10 January). We use that expression all the time and it wouldn’t be noticed at all here. Our use of the word comes from the Irish language, as we say ‘tu fein’ (yourself) and ‘me fein’ (myself). British readers will be familiar with Sinn Fein (ourselves). Perhaps himself should get out more.
Dómhnall Casey
Killiney, Dublin

The crux of the matter

Sir: Tim Hudson (Letters, 10 January) need not worry about any English invasion of Tuscany. Depictions of the Resurrection in western art frequently show the Risen Christ holding a white pennant that flutters from a long cross-shaped pole (crux longa) that has a red cross at the staff end of it. The device symbolises the shed blood of the dead Jesus and the purity of the Risen Lord of Easter, and has nothing to do with the military martyr Saint George, nor indeed with the Church of England.

The image can be found on the altarpieces carved from Nottingham alabaster in the 14th century, but perhaps the most exhilarating picture is that provided by Titian for the triptych on the high altar of St Nazaro and St Celso in Brescia in which the wind fluttering through the flag speaks powerfully of the force of the Holy Spirit.
Father Nicholas Cranfield
London SE3

Top names

Sir: Nicky Haslam’s reference to the exoticism of American female names (Diary, 10 January) calls to mind the reminiscences of the science fiction writer Frederik Pohl. Following his induction into the US Army in 1943, Pohl spent a lot of time playing golf with (and being regularly beaten by) ‘a very fine-looking and highly smart blonde divorcee from Florida named Zenobia Qualls Grizzard’.
Sebastian Robinson

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