The Spectator

Letters | 11 February 2016

Plus: hospice care and the NHS, gender fluidity and our greatest sportsman

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What’s best for Europe?

Sir: It seems that the British negotiations in Europe have produced little, and even at this late stage they would surely be more effective if the tone were based more on what is best for Europe as a whole (‘Fighting over the crumbs’, 6 February). If we leave, we will desert our friends among the nations of Europe and make them more beholden to the largest members. Surely the difficulties of immigration, the euro and muscle-bound regulation will sooner or later force Europe to make changes of the kind we wish to see, and we should be there to help make them happen. History teaches us that Europe is too large, and too near, for us to consider abandoning any influence over what they do there.

Peter Bartram

Tadworth, Surrey

A déjà vu deal

Sir: David Cameron arrives back from Europe with a ‘deal’. It brings to mind the former prime minister Neville Chamberlain returning in 1938 after talks in Europe with a declaration of ‘Peace for our time’. We know his fate, but only time will tell how history will judge the latest ‘deal’. Perhaps the moral is to beware of prime ministers bearing gifts from Europe.

Patrick Finucane

Faversham, Kent

Don’t foster panic

Sir: On the basis of one woman’s case, Lara Prendergast claims that mothers with post-natal depression are in danger of losing their children if they seek help from professionals (‘Fear of the baby-snatchers’, 6 February). This is highly misleading. Social workers have no financial incentive to remove a child; it is true that fostering is expensive, but it is local authorities that pay. Hundreds of family-court judgments can be read online and it’s clear that judges do not order the removal of happy, healthy babies solely on the basis of post-natal depression. A child must be at risk of significant harm with all reasonable options to keep them at home tried before a care order is made. The case related in the article, where no child was removed and no court application made, is no basis for the speculation that follows. Rising numbers of children in care, the place of profit in child protection, adoption policy and transparency — all of these issues require serious press investigation, not scaremongering that adds to parental anxieties.

Dr Julie Doughty


The joke and the ash

Sir: It was helpful of The Spectator’s ‘What’s That Thing?’ award (Arts, 6 February) to identify the ash tree by the new mathematics faculty as Simon Periton’s ‘Alchemical Tree’, the university’s latest contribution to public art. I’d thought it was a student prank the authorities hadn’t got round to clearing up.

John Davey


Wisdom enthroned

Sir: I was amused to read Rod Liddle’s favourite graffiti (30 January). Mine is one reported by a friend working in the MoD main building. While sitting on the loo, he read the inscription on the door: ‘Right now you are the only person in this building who knows exactly what they are doing.’

Sandy Carrick-Buchanan

Hurstbourne Tarrant, Hampshire

Final indignity

Sir: The shocking contrast in the care experiences of Anil Bhoyrul’s parents at the end of their lives in the same NHS hospital, ten years apart, highlights the urgent need for more palliative care training in hospitals. (‘Death on the NHS’, 6 February). Doctors and nurses should be able to care for dying people with confidence and compassion. Hospices have almost 50 years’ expertise in providing high-quality end-of-life care. They have partnerships with some hospitals to share this culture, but with greater resources could do much more.

Patients also need more choice about where they spend their final days. Many dying people have no clinical need to be in hospital and would be better supported in a hospice or at home. Some hospices are already leading local alternative care schemes and Hospice UK has asked the government to back a national programme to help reduce the number of dying people in hospital beds by 50,000 each year. This could deliver better care and save the NHS around £80 million a year. Without more palliative training and more hospice-led care, attempts to change the system, such as Nice guidelines, will ultimately prove futile and cases of poor care like this one will persist.

Michael Howard

Chair of Hospice UK, London WC1

Go with the fluidity

Sir: Whether one is a pro or an anti in the current gender debate is immaterial (‘In defence of gender’, 30 January). The direction of travel is clearly toward greater freedom of choice in one’s identity. If we accepted this and removed legal and cultural barriers to gender fluidity, it would save years of hurt on both sides.

Matthew Kilcoyne

London E1

Mantel of greatness

Sir: On your sports correspondent’s question about our greatest ever sportsman (‘Don’t cry for John Terry’, 6 February), I submit the name of C.B. Fry. Among many other achievements he was a joint world record holder for the long jump, played for England at cricket and association football, and scored 94 first-class centuries. His cricket career spanned four decades and he turned down an offer to captain England at the age of 49.

His most exceptional sporting talent, however, was to stand facing a drawing room mantelpiece, jump and turn in mid-air, and then land on the mantelpiece, bowing to the guests after alighting.

Dr R.G. Beddows

Leigh Barton, Devon