Fox and Angel, Creative Partnership

Major error by Cameron

June 20th, 2016

Sir: Staging the referendum has been a major error by an otherwise competent Prime Minister and we the electorate should vote as one and rescue David Cameron from his folly. Fortunately because we live in a democracy this can be done.

The world is on the move and this movement can only be stemmed by countries working together to control migration, aid refugees and stop the wars.

Prior to the political truce activated by the tragic death of Jo Cox this country has had to witness political infighting of a random, puerile and ignoble nature. If we vote to leave the EU this vitriol will continue for years, amongst ourselves and in our relationship with Europe. It is naïve to think there will be no serious repercussions. The only winners will be the lawyers who, once in charge, will only prolong the exit negotiations in their own interest. Peace and prosperity will go by the by. In these conditions cream never rises to the top; instead a clear run is given to egotists, those with personal vendettas, opportunists and despots.

The world will be a safer place if we stay in Europe. We must stick together and hold the line.

Depression/stress & the whole damn thing

May 13th, 2016

Sir: There is connection between the cases of Sheridan Smith, Sally Brampton and “Depression is the ‘new normal’” (May 10th). Causation is complex, and depression and anxiety hard to understand for the sufferer and the doctors who treat it. Also it comes in many different manifestations and can lead to physical illnesses and also be triggered by them. Very often it is more disabling than physical conditions which are so much more comprehensible. A broken leg may be visible but sufferers of anxiety can be adept at concealment. It seems Sally Brampton looked well and happy just a few days before her death.  

Depression may be caused by a whole range of life situations like loss and entrapment, most obviously the feeling of there being no way out, or simple overload. Sufferers are so confused by their terror they cannot conceive of treatment or medication that could possibly help them. Stress was a word barely known in my childhood although every generation has its difficulties. My own mother suffered from fifties “housewife depression” which was rife at the time and usually borne in silence behind closed doors; every generation has its weak points. Now women, (who are more prone to this condition than men) are often being asked to do too much. The pendulum has swung the other way.

It is hardly surprising that CEOs of health trusts are hard to recruit. Perhaps they are sensible to guard their mental health and not push themselves into a maelstrom only to suffer burn out and exhaustion within a few years.

Whichever way you look it is obvious the country badly needs a blueprint for good mental health at all levels, not least because urgent strategies are needed to take the pressure off the NHS, (as Rachel Kelly points out in her piece, also on May 10th  (“epidemic of depression won’t be solved by pills”) and provide better support for sufferers.  As anyone who has developed clinical depression will tell you, a stitch in time saves nine. Left to fester the condition can become entrenched and cause joblessness and hopelessness. The SSRis were a game changer when they were developed and are excellent at kick-starting recovery. In combination with exercise, rest and healthy eating, and with the right support, depression can be beaten.

As the world is speeding up and life increasingly beyond our control we ignore this problem at our peril.

NHS: Wider debate is needed

April 28th, 2016

Sir: Whether the government likes it or not the junior doctors have expanded the discussion on their pay and conditions into a wider debate about the NHS. What the public, but apparently not Jeremy Hunt – who should spend more time in outlying general hospitals – realise is that junior doctors are the glue that sticks a crumbling NHS together. Their support and goodwill is vital. We would all like a 7 day NHS but with the existing economic restraints it is better to focus on an NHS that functions well 5 days a week before expanding. Anybody who has been in hospital will know that junior doctors work at weekends in any case. It will never be an all singing and dancing seven day system before consultants are rostered, and technicians, diagnosticians, more nurses and office staff are routinely brought in.

Jeremy Hunt is gambling on the notion that if he can clobber the junior doctors all the rest will have no choice but to follow. Given the resistance at this first hurdle and the sympathy the public has with the doctors cause this is unlikely. NHS staff across all disciplines are already pushed to the limit and resentment is building. Above all the NHS needs a willing and committed workforce: the current measures are having the opposite effect. Jeremy Hunt must go and a fresh team brought in to look at the NHS in a holistic way – it cannot be broken into parts and needs action on many fronts. High quality staff must be attracted and retained. This is the bottom line when it comes to patient safety. Commitment is all.


March 4th, 2016

Sir: Is the government wise to grant further and far reaching powers to Ofgem, (Ministers ready to pull plug on National Grid- March 3), an organisation that has promised, but so far not succeeded, in the simple matter of persuading the utility companies to produce transparent and easy to comprehend gas and electricity bills?

Daniel in the lion’s den

December 11th, 2015

Sir: Well obviously rape is rape, and ‘I fell on her by mistake’ (The Times Dec 10th) gets full marks for bare-faced cheek, but teenage girls would be wise to know that when a very much richer and older man invites an 18 year old to his flat the invitation is part of a simple transaction which a girl needs to be aware of. Obviously what he did was very wrong but girls should know how to keep safe by watching out for themselves and not drinking to excess so they can be responsible for their own safety and make better judgements. Going back to a hotel with a footballer is another common error or expecting a married man to leave his wife. Mothers do not seem to be passing on the right value systems to their daughters. My generation were educated with parables and useful bible stories. In this case Daniel in the lion’s den comes to mind. If you enter, expect to be mauled.


Applying for medicine

December 9th, 2014

Sir: It is not just a question of broadening intake for medicine ( The Times Dec 10) but of creating more training places for doctors, midwives, nurses and other health personnel. It is false economy to attempt to shore up the NHS with immigrants, (in the process often depriving third world nations of indispensable staff) and right now is playing straight into the hands of UKIP. Successive governments and health leaders have constantly lamented staff shortages in the NHS but it has been nobody’s fault but their own. If there were more places entry conditions need not be quite so harsh, (and also less arbitrary). Urgent steps should be taken by the Coalition so that we become self – sufficient in this precious commodity.

Maggie Thatcher – awful mother?

April 15th, 2013

Sir: It is said, (Trending April 15), that Carol Thatcher has described Maggie as “an awful mother”. This may be true but it is not relevant. Although she remains a controversial figure what she demonstrated above all else was hard work, single-mindedness and tenacity: she knew how important and responsible a job being prime minister was. Frankly if you are running the country I think this is the only possible attitude….to give it everything you have. You cannot be all things to all men and personally although Nick Clegg is much praised for taking his children to school and so on, I’d rather he went straight to work and got on with the task in hand. (On Sundays, although a non-believer himself, he is often press ganged into attending church, when he could be catching up on the papers or those numerous red boxes). In any event the children of great politicians will have doors opened for them in later life that the offspring of lesser mortals can only dream of.

David Miliband

March 28th, 2013

Sir: Being an MP is not just any old job; it is an honour to be elected and to serve. It is breathtakingly egotistical to trigger a mid –  term by-election just because you did not get the top job. David Miliband’s priorities should be with his constituents of South Shields. His responsibility was to represent them and look after their interests. The press would have soon lost interest in the feuding brothers if he had simply got on with the task in hand. All the rest is humbug.

A final word on Vicky Pryce

March 11th, 2013

Sir: I am in no doubt that Vicky Pryce, when faced some years ago with the prospect of being stuck with all those late evening and early morning airport runs, should Chris Huhne be deprived of his licence, made a pragmatic decision to take his points. However having made this pact, their unremarkable secret should have been taken to the grave. All the rest, including the fact that he may or may not have wanted her to have an abortion is irrelevant flim-flam. It is indeed hurtful to be an abandoned spouse, however if she wanted to get her own back she should have needed Nora Ephron’s words, “revenge is best served cold… a book”.

In reply to Carol Sarler

January 27th, 2013

Sir: I have two children in their twenties and, so far least, they have turned out ok. However this general okay-ness is the result of two decades of hard work on the part of many individuals but most especially by me, their mother. Motherhood is complex; it requires hard graft, inspiration, loyalty and constant vigilance. This is more often than not, not the mother hen clucking type of behaviour but the more considered kind, of allowing them freedom to grow and make mistakes whilst knowing when to pull them in when boundaries are crossed.

Furthermore, although babies and toddlers would seem to be the most time-consuming, and the yup and nope teenage stage the most trying on the nerves, your job is not over until they are paid up independent self-sustaining members of society. It is often said that successful parents give their children both roots and wings: this is a fine balance that requires good judgment and constant thought.

Much of the work in child rearing is dull and repetitive – the washing of football kit and the finding of clean uniform never seems to end, but it is all part of the caring process. There is also a lot of waiting about while they learn to ride bikes and swim and you spend ages spent sitting with them while they learn to drive; however these are all vital life skills. 

Obtaining a decent education for your child whether in the state or private sector is almost a full time job, no wise parent can take their eye off the ball. (You must also be aware of high octane couples flying by who demand preferment for their child at the expense of your own).

However along the way the mother’s most important duty is the transmission of values and this job is never ending. Facing up to tricky conversations that both you and your children would rather not have is probably the most difficult task of all.

Motherhood is a lot of things, but part-time it ain’t.