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Clash of the Neuroses

It is a little known fact but Britain is a world-leader in the manufacture and distribution of paranoia. We even export it.

For most of the time our public officials are hard at work busily churning out the stuff for both the domestic and foreign markets. But, what happens when one health-panic runs headlong into another? Well, the whole machine just grinds to an embarrassing halt:

A council has forbidden pupils to apply sunscreen in school – in case other children suffer an allergic reaction.

Cancer Research UK, which launched the Sun Smart campaign to warn of the dangers of the sun, said it was “amazed” by the policy.

Manchester City Council says it is following health and safety guidelines.

Pity the poor child, stuck out on a limb, while two different nannies squawk at them with two entirely conflicting demands. Maybe the nannies could solve the problem (and do everyone a real favour) by just dropping dead from worry.

8 comments to Clash of the Neuroses

  • Puzzled

    “[Georgia] asked if she could use some kept at the school, after temperatures reached 26C on Monday. … But a teacher told Georgia she was not allowed to apply the cream [in case other children suffered an allergic reaction]”

    So then why does the school even have sunscreen if they’re not going to let anyone wear it?

  • I think it’s a good thing to happen. Both nannies are going to lose credibility with the kids.

  • Dave O'Neill

    Well, I must say I have sympathy with at least one of the anny positions. People’s attitude towards sunscreen in the UK is utterly insane.

    We do get sun, people do get burnt and skin cancer likes a to get a young start.

    You only have to look at the cancer stats for somewhere like Australia on this one, and its not like kids are able to make their own decision on this sort of thing. They are, after all, kids.

  • Dave O’Neill,

    For what it’s worth, I tend to agree with you. But it is interesting to watch this health&safety fundamentalism getting hoist by its own petard.

  • Guy Herbert

    I note that the story says the children were to be banned from applying their own sunscreen. One suppooses another bit of paranoia will already have stopped any adult doing it for them, in case it should amount to the dread “inappropriate touching”.

  • jk

    Does Britain lead in neuroses?

    An inconclusive sample of intelligent people in a brief recent visit, revealed a conspiracy-theory belief that frightened me. Sorry to hijack the discussion, but is this true and if so, is it appreciated?

  • Guy Herbert


    Did you mean a brief visit to the UK, or a brief visit to this site?

    The conspiracy theorists would say you ought to be alarmed–by the conspiracies. But leaving aside their paranoia, I don’t know that there’s much more conspiracy-theory here than elsewhere.

    People everywhere want the world to be explicable, and are unable to think very well about chance and complex occurrences, even when they have learned at all to think for themselves. There does seem to be a cult of questioning everything except the propaganda of pressure groups, but I don’t think that’s uniquely British.

    I’d suggest it is more the content of “question everything” that we need to worry about. In the minds of many otherwise intelligent people that commandment means not:
    “Probe and examine everything for plausiblility and consonance with the evidence,”
    “All you are told is a lie. Ad hominem explanation of the lie will lead you to the truth”.

    Short of giving everyone some education in mathematics, science and empirical philosophy, I don’t know what to suggest. And I sincerely doubt it would work. They want to believe.

    (Example: Presumably the judge, all counsel, and several jurors in the Sally Clarke murder case had done some elementary probability theory at O-level. However, none of them was able to observe that the “expert evidence” on the likelihood of two cot-deaths in one family must be nonsense.)

  • jk


    Thanks for the response. I meant a short visit to Britain. I live on this site.

    Admittedly, my sample was small but Occam’s Razor was not to be found. Not only was the WMD evidence cooked up by Bush, but the Wimbledon ladies finals were fixed. &c.

    I can’t prove either of those to be false but I find more pedestrian explanations to be satisfying.