Mind over matter

<strong>You Don't Have to be Famous to have Manic Depression</strong>

Jeremy Thomas and Tony Hughe

You don't have to be famous to have reservations about this book, especially as the foreword is by the (very famous) Stephen Fry. However, as the co-author Jeremy Thomas has always felt "nauseous at the sight of self-help books", this guide aims to be different.

The first section, "The Manic Dialogues", is a record of conversations between Thomas, a sufferer of manic depression, and Dr Tony Hughes, his GP and long-time friend. Next comes "Life Stories", a collection of anonymous contributions from people who have struggled with manic depression. The final section is the "A-Z Insider's Guide to Mental Health".

It is tempting to poke fun at the book's naff packaging and cringe-inducing phrases such as "Mr or Mrs Sane, Groovy and Wonderful". It is hard not to feel cynical when each story ends with an upbeat message ("Don't be afraid to dream, anything is possible"). One also questions the benefit of listing the 13 best rock/pop songs to "wallow in gloom and misery with". But the A-Z glossary does contain a lot of useful information, and the book should not be written off. As with any of the numerous treatment options out there, some may find it very helpful, and others may want to throw it against the wall.

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David Cameron's starter homes: poor policy, but good politics

David Cameron's electoral coalition of buy-to-let retirees and dual-earner couples remains intact: for now.

The only working age demographic to do better under the Coalition was dual-earner couples – without children. They were the main beneficiaries of the threshold raise – which may “take the poorest out of tax” in theory but in practice hands a sizeable tax cut to peope earning above average. They will reap the fruits of the government’s Help to Buy ISAs. And, not having children, they were insulated from cuts to child tax credits, reductions in public services, and the rising cost of childcare. (Childcare costs now mean a couple on average income, working full-time, find that the extra earnings from both remaining in work are wiped out by the costs of care)

And they were a vital part of the Conservatives’ electoral coalition. Voters who lived in new housing estates on the edges of seats like Amber Valley and throughout the Midlands overwhelmingly backed the Conservatives.

That’s the political backdrop to David Cameron’s announcement later today to change planning to unlock new housing units – what the governmen dubs “Starter Homes”. The government will redefine “affordable housing”  to up t o£250,000 outside of London and £450,000 and under within it. and reduce the ability of councils to insist on certain types of buildings. He’ll describe it as part of the drive to make the next ten years “the turnaround decade”: years in which people will feel more in control of their lives, more affluent, and more successful.

The end result: a proliferation of one and two bedroom flats and homes, available to the highly-paid: and to that vital component of Cameron’s coalition: the dual-earner, childless couple, particularly in the Midlands, where the housing market is not yet in a state of crisis. (And it's not bad for that other pillar of the Conservative majority: well-heeled pensioners using buy-to-let as a pension plan.)

The policy may well be junk-rated but the politics has a triple A rating: along with affluent retirees, if the Conservatives can keep those dual-earner couples in the Tory column, they will remain in office for the forseeable future.

Just one problem, really: what happens if they decide they want room for kids? Cameron’s “turnaround decade” might end up in entirely the wrong sort of turnaround for Conservative prospects.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.