The antidepressants con
Sir: Congratulations to Angela Patmore for exposing the many troubling aspects of the escalating use of antidepressants (‘Overdosed: Our dangerous dependency on antidepressants’, 24 March). The drug companies have conned doctors into prescribing antidepressants, patients into taking them, and taxpayers into paying for them with fake information. Such is the present epidemic of depression that one in ten of us is now taking them. NICE is drafting new guidelines for depression, and it is to be hoped it will expose this con, and that clinical groups in the UK will instead facilitate access to talking therapies for those millions of depressed people.
Hove, East Sussex
Sir: Isabel Hardman eloquently highlights the poor-quality care available for sufferers of depression and related conditions (‘My drug trials’, 24 March). Although a great deal is known about such disorders, there just is not the support in numbers on the ground. A close relative with bipolar had a manic high exacerbated by a GP’s incorrectly over-prescribing of antidepressants. It is very much a US-driven theory that chemical imbalances in the brain cause these problems and therefore chemicals are the solution. That said, in some cases ‘mindfulness’ therapy is not always the cure either.
John Van der Gucht
Keighley, West Yorkshire
The fishing vote
Sir: Charles Moore is right (The Spectator’s Notes, 24 March) about the sensitivity in Scotland of the fishing issue, and the Conservative party may pay the penalty in Scotland for broken promises about the transition period. In the period 1971-1973, during and after the negotiations to join the Common Market, Edward Heath told my unhappy boss Gordon Campbell, the secretary of state for Scotland, that conceding UK fishing rights under the Common Fishing Policy was ‘a price worth paying’ for access to the EC structural funds. A few thousand fishermen and their families might be worse off, but hundreds of thousands of workers in the decaying industrial areas would be better off. The few would be sacrificed for the many. At the general elections in 1974, all six Scottish Conservatives in coastal constituencies (including Mr Campbell) lost their seats to the SNP (then anti Europe). No wonder Ruth Davidson and her Scottish colleagues (not to mention Michael Gove) are worried that history might repeat itself. The government should be worried, too.
A flexible icon
Sir: In his excellent article (‘Big data is watching you’, 24 March), Jamie Bartlett concludes that ‘the politicians of the future will be those with the fewest ideas and the greatest talent for vagueness, because that leaves maximum scope for algorithm-based targeted messaging’. There is a surprising cultural precedent for such flexibility in the figure of Joan of Arc, a political saint who has always been claimed by conflicting groups as a heroine for their cause. In 2012, for example, the comparatively liberal Nicolas Sarkozy visited her birthplace in an effort to preempt the National Front’s annual celebration of her role as liberator of France. The author Candida Moss concludes in The Myth of Persecution: ‘Any French group can claim Joan of Arc, because Joan of Arc’s story can be subtly altered and reconfigured so that she can speak to any issue or political stance.’ Large-scale data mining may be a 21st-century phenomenon, but a 15th-century saint shows how our ability to shape narratives to suit ourselves is as old as the hills.
Drawn to evensong
Sir: I read with interest Revd Dr Jonathan Arnold’s report that attendances at traditional Anglican choral services have been rising (Notes on Evensong, 24 March). I have been attending church services for two years, having partly been inspired by reading about the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and its importance in the history, culture and language of our nation. At 25, I am one of the younger generation being drawn to this ‘antidote to the modern age of instant digital gratification’. Luckily I live near a church that offers regular traditional BCP services at a reasonable time of day, but for many this is not so. Apart from in the great cathedrals and chapels, the C of E has ensured that a modern language Common Prayer service is what people are likely to find in their parish church. If only the Church leadership would realise they are sitting on their greatest evangelising tool.
Vagaries of local planning
Sir: David Dilley (Letters, 17 March) suggests ‘co-operation between local communities and enlightened landowners’ might assist in the provision of affordable housing for local residents. A mechanism already exists, known as a Community Land Trust. More than 200 have been set up in England and many more will be established as a result of the Localism Act 2011. However, what is still missing is a central government solution to the vagaries of local planning decisions.
Nigel J. Knott
Nice little earner
Sir: Toby Young’s article on 17 March regarding the ‘nice little earner’ (for some private schools that charge a fee to go on a waiting list) struck a chord with me. We looked at Charterhouse Square School for our son, which requires a non-refundable £150 to enter a ballot for about 20 places. We were told that there were usually 120 entrants. A quick calculation reveals that this process nets £18,000.