The Spectator

Feedback | 19 March 2005

Readers respond to recent articles published in <i>The Spectator</i>

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A Liddle simplistic

I read Rod Liddle’s article (‘A question of breeding’, 12 March) with dismay. It appears that my son has autism because I found my husband’s company congenial and we married and had a child. As an explanation for a complex neurological disorder this seems slightly simplistic. In fact it seems only just better than the blame-the-mother argument that was popular in the 1950s. Those people who married and had children with disorders such as Hunter’s syndrome, cystic fibrosis or haemophilia undoubtedly found their partner’s company appealing as well, but all these disabilities have identified genetic causes. What is different about autism is that the genes responsible have not been fully pinned down, and that there may well be environmental factors in addition to genetic predisposition.

I have yet to meet the parent of a child with autism who is a computer programmer, engineer, mad scientist or keen ‘systemiser’. They tend to be perfectly average people doing their best to cope with little help with children who have very significant neurological disabilities.

Catherine Munro

London SW14

Shame on Patten

Shame on Chris Patten for misrepresenting my report of what he said in order to deny it (Letters, 12 March). What I actually wrote was: ‘There was a need, he [Patten] said, to satisfy China’s “amour-propre”. Beijing, he said, was “humiliated” by being bracketed with the likes of Sudan and Burma.’

This was an entirely accurate report of Chris Patten’s words.

Andrew Gilligan

London SE10

Unlucky duck

Charles Moore draws attention to the RSPB’s refusal to permit the culling of magpies (The Spectator’s Notes, 12 March). This contrasts with that body’s position on the unfortunate ruddy duck. The RSPB supports the lunatic Defra scheme to shoot or trap and kill every ruddy duck in Britain to stop them flying off to Spain and mating with the Spanish white-headed duck, lest the Spanish white-headed duck is hybridised into extinction. The Defra position may not surprise us, as it seems rather keen on mass extermination (except for TB-ridden badgers). But the RSPB? Or does the P stand for Politicisation rather than Protection?

Michael Simons

Ruislip, Middlesex

More Marbles

I was amused by Paul Johnson’s article (And another thing, 12 March) describing the French urging us to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece. Recently, on a trip to Leptis Magna in Libya, I was told that the French had shipped 200 of the Roman cipollino marble columns from Leptis Magna to France in the 18th century. Surely if we return the Elgin Marbles the French should return the Leptis Marbles? The only problem is that they would have to dismantle the Palace of Versailles to get at them.

Edward Housley


The wrong punks

Matthew Parris’s column (Another voice, 5 March) cited the punk band 999 as being composers of the song ‘Police Oppression’.