The Spectator

Letters | 4 August 2012

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Midwife crisis

Sir: All Leah McLaren has to do is wait and see if she still wants a hospital birth after antenatal care from her home-birth midwife (‘Bullied by the NHS’, 28 July). Our helpline is deluged with calls from women who, having experienced a first birth in hospital, have booked a home birth for the second. Towards the end of pregnancy, they are told that the community midwives are fully booked, or they are given a spurious or exaggerated medical reason for going in. I hope she is with a team of midwives who are able to support her eventual choice.

Jean Robinson
President, Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services, Oxford
Health and happiness

Sir: While I can understand your cynicism about the recently published Happiness Index (Leading article, 28 July), there is a wider issue at stake here, which is the need to focus on the mental wellbeing of the population, particularly children and young people. The recent report by the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance estimated that ‘mental illness reduces GDP by 4.1 per cent or £52 billion a year’.

Of course happiness and mental health are different things but I would argue that they are two sides of the same coin. Just as we have public health campaigns about cancer and heart disease, we now need to focus attention on mental illness to reduce the stigma and also to help those who are suffering or who are likely to suffer to get help early. I hope that the debate on mental health which I helped to lead in the House of Commons in June and in which MPs on all sides spoke was part of that process, and I welcome the government’s recently published Mental Health Framework Implementation Plan. But changing a culture is not something government can do on its own — magazines such as The Spectator have their part to play too.

Nicky Morgan
MP for Loughborough

Wilful blindness

Sir: Stephen Pollard bemoans the liberal-left media’s wilful blindness to attacks on Jews (‘Dead Jews don’t make news’, 28 July). It’s not that they despise Jews so much, but that the attacks he quotes were made by Muslims. Led by the BBC, the media simply refuse to acknowledge, let alone criticise, acts done by followers of the Religion of Peace. (I can recommend the ‘Biased BBC’ website for a depressing list of lacunae.) Had the atrocities been perpetrated by Nazis, or the BNP, or right-wing conservatives, or Tory MPs, or perhaps anyone other than Muslims, they would have been exhaustively examined.

Peter Lucey

Sir: I am sure many of us share Stephen Pollard’s distaste for the anti-Semitism and selective self-righteousness of certain sections of the media in ignoring the Bulgarian outrage. But it was very naughty of him to say, ‘In the Guardian, I saw precisely nothing.’ He can’t have been looking. The Guardian reported the tragedy as a major news item on 19 July (with video footage online) and followed it with several articles and references. Such inaccuracy on Pollard’s part damages his otherwise powerful argument.

Michael Lynch

Forging a triumph

Sir: In his review of Pankaj Mishra’s From the Ruins of Empire (Books, 28 July), Philip Hensher quotes Mishra’s assertion that ‘Japan had shown that Asian countries could find their own path to modern civilisation’ in its naval victory over Russia in 1904-05. Neither author nor reviewer seem to note that Japan’s victories in the Yellow Sea and at Tsushima were largely due to European — indeed, British — technology. Admiral Togo’s flagship Mikasa and his principal battleships such as Asahi, Fuji and Shikishima were built in the shipyards of Vickers of Barrow in Furness, John Brown of Glasgow, and the Thames Ironworks at Blackwall. Key factors in their superiority over Russia’s fleet included their 12ft naval guns made by Armstrong Whitworth of Newcastle upon Tyne and their range-finding sights by Barr & Stroud of Glasgow.

Christopher Goulding
Newcastle upon Tyne

Naughty but not vulgar

Sir: Tanya Gold (Food, 28 July) fails to mention that the extraordinary décor in the excellent Brasserie Zédel is largely the work of the architect Oliver Bernard (1881-1939). Dating from 1934-36, it was described when new as ‘just a trifle dissipated and naughty, but not sufficiently so as to be vulgar’. Bernard has a special interest for Spectator readers — he fathered the legendary Jeffrey, still much missed from your pages.

Kenneth Powell
London SW12


Sir: Regarding Matthew Parris’s dislike of dry stone walls (14 July), we suspect over 1,000 members of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain might disagree with him. Dry stone walls have been in existence for hundreds of years. The association works tirelessly to raise awareness of them, encouraging younger people to learn how to build them. We can only hope that Mr Parris’s column will encourage people to look at these wonderful structures with renewed interest.

Alison Shaw
Dry Stone Walling Association,

Pieter, Peter and Pablo

Sir: As an MEP, Daniel Hannan (‘The pain in Spain’, 28 July) reveals a shocking ignorance regarding continental names. ‘They are robbing Pieter to pay Paulo’ implies that Holland is bailing out Portugal. What he meant to say, I’m sure, is ‘they are robbing Peter (or even Petrus) to pay Pablo’.

Joseph Myall
Kurume, Japan