Sunday, 18 January 2015

Oil price fall not so good

What is good news for the consumer is bad news for the environment. The fall in the price of oil is probably bad news for the market in renewable energy.  Higher crude prices make biofuels more viable, then the converse is true, lower crude prices make biofuels less viable. Most biofuels are produced from crops that can also be used for food production. Biofuels are not without environmental impact. As demand grows so more land is likely to be devoted to production with impact on forests and biodiversity.  But at leat it is renewable.

The market in biofuels increased in recent years primarily to meet demand from the transport sector, especially road vehicles, which use biofuels either in pure form or as blend into conventional fossil fuels.  With rising crude prices the biofuels industry became more or less self sustainable and less reliant on subsidies to promote green energy production.  The falling price of crude may put that in jeopardy.  This may in turn have debilitating impact in developing economies where production of biofuels is the greatest. Nevertheless, Brazil and the US still account for the majority of global bioethanool production. 

The growth of alternative energy sources to replace fossil fuels may be halted by price constraints. Alternative sources still account for a very limited share of primary energy demand.  They have not been regarded as a replacement for fossil fuels but more as a supplement.  There was a time when it was estimated that the source of fossil fuels would run dry. It is after all finite. It is estimated that 970 billion barrels of oil have been consumed so far, while around 1 669 billion barrels at the end of 2012 are still to be extracted, which should take not more than 35 years at the current rate of production. 

That is a sobering thought.  We have 35 years to develop alternatives. Time is precious.  Falling crude prices may give us false optimism, a 'feel good' factor as we fill our tanks.  But it is a false prospectus.  


Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Pope says 'non'.

The Pope has caused a stir.  Against the tide of 'Je suis Charlie' he has said effectively 'Je ne suis pas toujour Charlie'.  In all the excitement of solidarity we might forget that 'freedom' is tempered by the impact of exercising the liberty to express our views.  We do it all the time.  There are often things we choose not to say because of its effect on others. We do not wish to hurt them.  It is a self imposed censorship. There is no reason why the press ought not to exercise a similar restraint.  It is particularly so when dealing with stereotypes and actions which might incite dislike or even hatred of others.

We are almost all of us familiar with the process of bullying.  Each individual contribution to it might be small and seemingly insignificant, but the sum total can be profoundly damaging on the victim. This is why when we say  'je suis Charlie' we must be sure what it is we mean by it. It is too easy to consider the impact on a 'community' as being less problematic than an action against an individual. Calling an individual names, hurting them through ridicule has an impact we can see.  In the cloud or fog of ridicule of a community are hundreds and thousands of individuals. And it is made worse when it fosters or presents a stereotype.  They are all like this aren't they?

It is easy enough to be a bully. It is hard to stand against the grain of bullying.  In this the Pope is right to remind us that it isn't simply enough to say 'Je suis Charlie'.  We must also say 'non' to bigotry and hatred.  We must say 'non' to religious intolerance.  We must say 'non' to racism and racist stereotypes.  We must say 'non' to bullying in whatever its guise.  Ridicule is part of the bullies arsenal. A cartoon, a caricature can be as much part of the bullying as can a chant or a remark.

Je suis Chalrie.  Je suis encore Charlie. I believe in the freedom to express views. Mais, Je ne suis pas en faveur de l'intimidation. Je ne suis pas en faveur de l' incitation à la haine.

I say all this not to criticise satire. Let's satirise the satirists. Satire can carry a profound message. Let's be careful of the message.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Problems in A&E are a symptom of deeper problems

The publication of the weekly figures on A&E waiting times once again demonstrate the strain on the NHS.  This is not simply a problem of first line care. It is a symptom of a deeper malaise.  It is the result of £20 billion of cuts since 2010 and of a senseless top down reorganisation.

To dismiss the £20 billion as 'efficiency savings' won't do. They are cuts and these cuts have impact on front line services.

Politicians need to look at the NHS as a whole to address pressure on A&E. We need more than sticking plaster to repair the damage done.  Doctor and health care organisations have warned repeatedly of the problems in the NHS - a service at the brink of failure.

We have a health service that still delivers at the highest levels. It is a service in large part free at the point of delivery.  But we cannot take the service for granted. It needs resources and staffing. As the BMA say today, the government cannot address the problems in the NHS without looking at the system as a whole. Delays at the front door are related to problems at the back door.

Responding to the publication of weekly figures on A&E waiting times Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said:

“Another week, another set of damning figures from emergency departments - but we must remember that behind the figures is a lack of the necessary investment to give every patient the treatment they deserve, in the emergency department or elsewhere in the system. Patients should be treated on the basis of need, rather than arbitrary targets, but there’s no getting away from the fact the NHS under extraordinary pressure, trying to cope despite inadequate resources. Staff are working flat-out, under extreme pressure but the system is struggling to keep up with the sheer number of patients coming through the door.

"These figures point to NHS services under stress across the UK. This shows that this issue goes beyond one party and one government – all politicians of all colours need to wake up and look at the system as a whole. We need to move away from political point scoring and come up with a long term plan to address these problems.

“Politicians can’t address problems in A&E without looking at the system as a whole. Problems at the hospital front door are linked to delays at the back door. This is because a shortage of social care beds creates ‘exit block’ in hospitals, meaning patients who no longer need to be in hospital can’t be discharged because there is simply nowhere for them to go. This, together with a shortage of beds, leads to delays in admissions and patients being forced to wait on trolleys or admitted to an inappropriate ward. Outside of hospitals, investment in general practice is declining while demand is on the rise and more care is moved into the community - this simply isn’t sustainable.

 “We can only get to grips with pressure on A&Es if every part of the system – from our GP surgeries, to hospitals, to community care – is fully supported and working well, and this includes urgently addressing the shortage of A&E staff and GPs. We must ensure NHS 111 is improved to make it a doctor and nurse-led service which will prevent patients being unnecessarily directed to A&E.”

A flawed and unnecessary top down reorganisation together with cuts in funding have cause the problem. This needs to be addressed. We need a ten year strategy for the NHS to deal with the underlying problems so that it can provide the flexible service we need. We need a ten year strategy that brings together health and care facilities. Setting targets is not the answer. Dealign with the underlying infrastructure and how it works must be the way forward. We should end the sticking plaster approach to the NHS.

Friday, 9 January 2015

BMA respond to collapse of private franchise at Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

A company which became the first private firm to manage an NHS hospital says it wants to "withdraw from its contract".

Circle Holdings, which operates Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire, said its franchise is "no longer viable under current terms".

Commenting on the announcement that Circle Holdings, which operates Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire, is withdrawing from its contract, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair said:

“What has happened in Hinchingbrooke shows that the responsibility of running a critical public service can never be handed, over and so the insistence on private providers as a potential solution to problems facing Hinchingbrooke was always misguided. This example also shows that that not even private providers are immune to the extreme financial pressures on NHS services, caused by a shortage of government funding.

“Patient care must remain the absolute priority at Hinchingbrooke hospital as the running of services is transferred. The doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff at the hospital deserve recognition for continuing to provide excellent quality of care for patients, under difficult and uncertain circumstances.

“The BMA’s preference would be for NHS providers over private management, but if the hospital is to be handed over to an NHS Trust to run, the services have to be properly resourced - we cannot continue to meet rising demand with underinvestment. At this moment, Hinchingbrooke’s finances remain in doubt, the hospital needs to put on a sound financial footing or else the problems facing it will only persist.”

Private providers not the answer to NHS problems

The doctor's organisation the British Medical Association says today that the government's  top-down reorganisation of the NHS was 'unwanted'. It also says that private provisions is not the answer to the problems of the NHS.  General practice the BMA says is struggling to keep pace with rising demands in the face of cuts in funding.

There is a tendency when the NHS is under strain to refer to an ageing population and the demands on the NHS. But this crisis is of the government's making.  If you cut resources it is going to have an impact on frontline services.  The Tory leadership promised there would be no 'top down' reorganisation of the NHS. They reneged on that and imposed a complex reorganisation which is causing problems. The coalition said that the NHS would be ring-fenced from the cuts. It has not been. Calling cuts efficient savings does not mean they are not cuts.  These cuts amount to  £20 billion over the five years of coalition government. You cannot take that out of the system and expect no consequences. Add on top of that the cost and problems or a major reorganisation, under funding of GP practices, and you have the recipe for the current crisis in A&E.  As the BMA rightly say problems at the hospital front for of the NHS are linked to shortages at the back door and in social care services that block beds and increase waiting lists.

What is unforgivable is that the government have been repeatedly warned over the last five years of the consequences of their policies and cuts.

Responding to the publication of weekly figures which show pressure on England's A&E departments is getting worse, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said:

 “Patients should be treated on the basis of need, rather than arbitrary targets, but these figures show an NHS under extraordinary pressure, trying to cope despite inadequate resources.

“What’s happening in Hinchingbrooke today shows that the responsibility of running a critical public service can never be handed over, and so the insistence on private providers as a potential solution to problems facing Hinchingbrooke was always misguided. It also shows that even private providers are not immune to the extreme financial pressures on NHS services, because of government underfunding.

“It’s important to remember that, while there may not be weekly performance figures for other parts of the system, what’s happening in our A&Es is reflective of, and linked to, wider pressures across the NHS.  You can’t address problems in A&E, without looking at the system as a whole.

“Problems at the hospital front door are often linked to delays at the back door. A shortage of social care beds creates ‘exit block’ in hospitals, meaning patients can’t be discharged because there is simply nowhere for them to go. This, coupled with a shortage of hospitals beds, leads to patients waiting for hours on trolleys or admitted to an inappropriate ward for their needs, affecting the quality of care they receive. This is just one example of pressure in one part of the system spilling over into other parts.

“Outside of hospitals, general practice is struggling to keep up with rising demand, carrying out 40m more consultations a year than in 2008. Investment in general practice is declining while demand is on the rise and more care is moved into the community - this simply isn’t sustainable.

“In the last week there have been lots of promises made and blame thrown around. What we need now is action. To address pressure on A&Es politicians need to look at the NHS as a whole. Investment needs to keep up with demand, every part of system - from our GP surgeries, to hospitals, to community care - needs to be supported and working well, and we must also address the acute shortage of A&E staff and GPs.

“We also need to reverse the harmful effects of Government's top down reorganisation without another NHS-wide restructure. These unwanted changes have made the delivery of joined-up care more difficult by valuing competition over integration of services, leading to care being fragmented at a time when the NHS needs to be delivering more joined up care, not less.”

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie

Words, expression, love, hate, bitterness, views, objectives, ways, means. Feelings. Why? Je suis Charlie.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Glad to see the back of this nasty government

I will be pleased to see the back of this coalition government. Under the cloak of dealing with the deficit they set about a vicious ideological attack on the poorest and most vulnerable. They branded those on benefits as 'cheats' at worse or 'welfare dependents' at best.  They talked of 'welfare dependency' but did nothing to deal with the root causes of such 'dependency - low pay and poverty. The drove families from their homes because of a 'spare bedroom' - Nasty - very nasty. Hard working families made to take the brunt of austerity. As a result it has been the poorest who have taken the biggest hit in 'dealing with the deficit'.  Austerity became synonymous with 'dealing with the deficit'. Yet austerity was an ideologically driven attack on social and welfare provision. The truth is that if we had 'all been in it together' then there would have been changes in taxes too. As it was it was one rule for the wealthy and another for the poor.

All this is why it is difficult to forgive Mr Clegg's Liberal Democrats. They presided over this too and should take full responsibility for it.  But I suspect they will now attempt to distance themselves. I hope that does't work. Frankly they deserve to be hit, and hit badly by voters. Far from reigning back Tory excesses, they provided a cloak for it. Whilst they claimed to be holding the Tories in the centre ground they sat in cabinet watching the Tories run amok with welfare and benefits. They sat by and watched as the scandal of ATOS disability assessments kicked in - one of the biggest scandals of this government.

The Liberal Democrats will say that 'it was necessary' to address the deficit. But did it work? Did attacking the poorest work in cutting the deficit? No, it did not, which is why we now have the prospect of an election with 'cutting the deficit' as the main issue. And why did it fail? It failed because the government gave little attention to increasing revenues.  Cutting too far too soon slowed economic recovery and cut revenue - that is the crucial reason the government have not met their deficit reduction targets.

With unemployment falling steadily you would think that revenue would increase. But the nature of the rise in employment - part time, casual, 'self employed', zero-hour contracts - does little to increase  revenue. It is not a sign of success, it is a sign of underlying weakness in the economy that people can't be properly employed on decent wages. If they were, then incomes would rise and tax revenue would rise and the deficit fall.  Instead we have the prospect of more and more cuts.


Monday, 5 January 2015

The dye is cast

We are perhaps beginning to see the problem of fixed term parliaments. Election campaigns start early. The new year is but a few days old but we are already at the beginnings of the elections which must be held in May. So this means we have in store effectively five months of campaigning. David Cameron was on the Andrew Marr show this morning in full campaigning mode. Claims and counter-claim came from the Labour and Tory parties.

An opinion Poll in the Observer has the Tory and Labour party running pretty well neck and neck.  A four month campaign risks bringing serious decision making to an end as everything is now locked into the election timetable. The coalition exists now in name only. We are in election mode and the Liberal Democrats and Tories are establishing their positions. This is the problem with fixed term parliaments.

But the battle lines are already clear. The Tories will attack labour on tax and spend. Labour will attack the Tories on public services and particularly the NHS. The only unknown is what line the Liberal Democrats will adopt.  Will they go into the election proud of their contribution to the coalition? That will depend on the mood of the electorate. They will try to distance themselves from the unpopular decisions taken - a kind of 'it wasn't me guv' approach. Whether the voters will buy that is up fro question. I doubt it. But if the economy looks strong for the Tories, then the Liberal Democrats will try another approach: 'it was us as well what done it'.

The survival of all three main party leaders depends on the campaign. Much depends on their performance. Labour I suspect are anxious about Ed Miliband. The dye is cast. There is little they can now do to change it. The Tories depend on negative campaigns against Miliband and the economy. If voters buy into the idea that the economy is good and their financial prospects with it, then I suspect the Tories are home and dry. Well, almost. I think the polls are closing because voters do feel a bit better off. Labour has an uphill task of persuading voters that other matters...matter. The problem for them is that they usually do that when the economy is good. When it is bad, the economy matters. It is all a bit of a conundrum for the party leaders.

Nuances are difficult to get across in an election campaign. Unemployment is falling. But there are fundamental problems with jobs.  Those problems are difficult to get across. The deadline figure is what matters most. The same for economic growth. Voters won't be concerned too much about 'balanced growth'.  Growth is growth, and growth is 'good', even if it isn't. The 'wrong' kind of growth can be...well, 'wrong'.  I can't see Labour canvassers making that point clear on the doorsteps.

There is of course the simple approach: the economy is growing but people are still hurting. This of course is true. It is easier to get across because many families still feel the squeeze.  The simple argument of the Tories about benefit scroungers doesn't have such resonance. Many hard working families experience difficulty with low pay and poor working conditions or hours.  We have a large 'part time economy'.  The numbers of those 'self employed' has grown not because we have become overnight a nation of entrepreneurs.

Elections we are told depend on how people feel as much as any reality or economic statistics. According to opinion surveys, confidence in the economy grew through most of 2014, but began falling again toward its end.  Two concerns increased: immigration and the NHS.  The latter of benefit to Labour; the former for UKIP.  But there are signs also that the UKIP bubble may have burst. They will come under increasing scrutiny. As they do so they have been found wanting. The Tories made the mistake of sitting unrealistic targets for immigration.  To set targets for factors over which you have no control is plain foolish. But that is what they did for election purposes. Now they will have to justify that to the voters.  UKIP will of course have a field day.

I can't help feeling that something is not revealed in the polls. It is the tendency for voters to return to the fold. Will voters tempted by UKIP really follow through if it become clear, for example, that sitting Tory MPs will lose their seats? Somehow I think UKIP support is 'exaggerated' in pre general election polls. But we will see.

It will be a long haul. The ring pistol has gone off early and there is no stopping it now. Don't expect much sense in it all over the next four months.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Political soundbites on the NHS are not enough

Once again the BMA are warning of the problems faced by an overstretched and underfunded NHS. Now it gives a clear warning that treating the NHS as a political football in the run up to the general election in May is not the way forward.  The NHS needs a period of long-term, sustainable investment, and not to be used as fodder in the election with pledges to throw emergency money at the problems.

We need a coordinated strategy that puts patient care at the heart of the NHS. Labour is the party of the NHS. It can be proud of its history. But it must produce a clear and realistic strategy.  Recent international reports have demonstrated that our NHS is a jewel in our crown. It still leads the world in many regards. But we know it is overstretched. We know that waiting lists are getting longer and the system can breakdown. The staff work hard enough. They deserve better than political sound bites.

The Labour party must show that it can produce a clear and responsible strategy for the NHS and for social care. That will not be easy because it will require funding - not emergency funding, but sustainable long-term commitment.

In response to the Labour Party's dossier on the future of the NHS, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said:

“We have repeatedly voiced our concerns that year-on-year reductions in real term NHS funding are continuing to threaten the quality of patient care and access to it. Equally, we believe that the changes to the NHS pursued by successive governments, such as increased privatisation and competition, are eroding the core principles of our healthcare system.

“Instead of focusing on delivering high-quality care for patients, the NHS is being damaged by distracting reorganisation and increasing transaction costs.

“It is a reflection on how hard front-line staff are working that the quality of patient care has so far been protected, and indeed improved, despite years of underinvestment, but the NHS has reached a crossroads and pressure on services is now at a critical point with cracks beginning to appear.

“For patients this means unacceptable waits for treatment that increasingly fail to meet the government’s targets, the increasingly restricted access to some services including operations such as knee and hip replacements, and longer queues in our GP surgeries and emergency departments.

“A doctor's primary duty is to their patient. It is vital that decisions around patient care are clinically not politically led. It is essential that the next government works in partnership with doctors to ensure the future development of the NHS and provide better coordinated care developed around patients’ needs.

“The NHS needs more than party political promises to survive; it needs long-term, sustainable investment to ensure there are enough staff and resources to meet rising demand and provide the best quality care for our patients.”

Friday, 2 January 2015

Andy Murray's vote counts too

Andy Murray started the new year in style with a 6-2, 6-0 crushing win over Rafael Nadal to reach the World Tennis Championship final. Already commentators look for the superlatives. Is this the 'new' Andy Murray, coming back strong after a difficult 2014? Can he win another Wimbledon? Will he tell us who to vote for in the general election?

One thing I do know is that he should not have been expected to apologise for making his views known about the referendum on Scottish independence. He has a right to express his views. Andy Murray expressed regret after tweeting his support for the "Yes" campaign. The Wimbledon champion received a torrent of abuse after tweeting his support for the Yes campaign on the morning of the referendum. He should not have felt it necessary to regret. There is nothing to regret. He now realises that his views matter, perhaps more than he realised. But why anyone could get angry about a Scot expressing his views about independence demonstrates how some people cannot distinguish between the sporting hero and the expression of his own views. We do not own Andy Murray.

His infamous tweet was an expression of the extraordinary enthusiasm generated by the referendum. Politics came to life. Politics finally mattered, and nothing is now the same. It was a 'no' vote by a reasonable margin, and yet it changed our politics for ever. We need now to find a way of injecting the same enthusiasm into the general election in May. If we can get the same kind of fierce debate, real debate — and argument about ideas, then no matter what the outcome it would be good for British politics.

It is expected that the Tory party will outspend Labour by 3 to 1. That is a wide margin. Should our elections be decided by who can spend the most? How will the Liberal Democrats Square up against their coalition partners in the general election? It will be a difficult election for them. But will Labour be able to offer a coherent and credible alternative, or will the arguments be about a slither of difference?

Politics matters. I cannot think of an election where so much could change and where the outcome is so uncertain. British politics may never be the same again as we truly move into an era of alignments rather than clear party dominance. Will that be a good thing? It will be good if it broadens the debate and brings into the mainstream ideas that challenge us. It will be a bad thing if it further narrows the middle ground over which the parties fight.

If it galvanises Andy Murray to be brave enough to give his opinion, and if it galvanises others in the same way, then perhaps 2015 will herald a new start for British politics. But, it is for Andy Murray at least a good start. Let's hope he really does have a better year than 2014 - in Tennis that is.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Election promises not enough to fix NHS BMA warns

As the old year ends and a new year starts, there is more worrying news from the British Medical Association (BMA).  There quarterly survey across all branches of practice show that nearly 50% of doctors reported low or very low morale. Morale among GPs continues to be lower than other branches of practice. 74% of GPs describe their workload as being unmanageable or unsustainable, a percentage that has steadily increased in every quarter of 2014.  Little wonder then that the BMA start 2015, the year of the general election, with a sobering warning.

Morale is low and yet a new report finds that the NHS provides amazing value for money when compared internationally.  So what is the problem? All the evidence shows the NHS is stretched to breaking point and we can see that increasing month on month as the cuts bite into front-line services.

Pledges in the party manifestos for the coming general election should come with a health warning. Pledges and promises won't alone fix the problems.

Manifesto promises and pledges of support alone will not help protect the NHS, the chair of the BMA has warned.

In his New Year’s message to members, Dr Mark Porter says that with just months to go until the general election doctors and patients can expect to hear all politicians pledge their support for the NHS, but words alone will not help improve the NHS.

At a time when 74 per cent of GPs face unmanageable or unsustainable workload pressures1 and NHS emergency admissions have reached record levels2, Dr Porter says that “resources and commitment are vital too”.

Dr Porter says: “Every day in the NHS, we work hard to maintain the trust that our patients place in us. They in turn want the NHS to thrive, and the parties reflect that. But all too often politicians make promises as if words alone can improve the NHS. Resources and commitment are vital too.

“They pledge thousands more GPs, for example, but with no apparent recognition of the growing and unsustainable pressures faced by general practices, and when the numbers entering GP training in England have actually dropped by 15 per cent this year alone.

“And after each election, the new minister has the power to make us feel as if we’re in a giant snow globe. A colossal hand reaches for the NHS, and we’re being shaken up again with some new laws and organisations. After the turmoil the snow settles; everything’s in a different place, but little has been made better than it was.

“The time and endeavour would have been better spent in protecting what we are in danger of losing through starved resources and an obsession with competition and markets.”

Dr Porter adds that for doctors it is deeply frustrating that successive governments continue to makes changes to the NHS while opportunities for real change in order to improve patient services have been missed.

He says: “The NHS is, according to the highly respected Commonwealth Fund, the highest-quality and most cost-effective healthcare system of 11 leading economies, including Germany, France and the US. And so our many foreign admirers ask the same question: if the system is that good, why do your governments keep playing around with it?

“For doctors, it’s doubly frustrating when there has been so much unnecessary reorganisation, while real opportunities to improve services have been repeatedly passed over. There is nothing more demoralising than trying to make failed policies work, but doctors have never been a passive or reactive voice. It is down to us all of us to articulate and create an NHS that serves our patients best, in whichever nation we work.”

Only we know how to do these things

Unfortunately 2015 has not started well. Oh it had the fantastic firework displays and I have no doubt that a lot of people were happy.  But then I hear Butler-Sloss speaking on BBC Radio 4.  Lady Butler-Sloss said she worried that “the victims and survivors, for whom I have the most enormous sympathy – and as a judge I tried a great many child abuse cases – for them to be deciding who should be the person chairing it creates real problems”. Yes, indeed it does, they wouldn't want her to chair it for a start. But is that really a problem? Here is what she went on to say.

“If you do not have in the past a position of authority, how are you going to be able to run the inquiry? You are going to need someone who knows how to run things and if you get someone with an obscure background with no background of establishment, they will find it very difficult and may not be able to produce the goods.”

You see, that is what the people who consider themselves to be 'of the establishment', 'one of us', think. They are better than everyone else. Oh yes they are! After all, how else would they be 'one of them'. Only they could possibly have the intelligence, the ability, the experience, the hidden ingredient of the elite. They dine with each other. Their brothers and uncles and aunts and mothers and fathers, and uncle Tom Cobbly and all were 'one of them', so they must be 'suitable'.  We are the establishment. We are the champions. We are the best. Only we, brothers, know how to do these things. Oh dear! Did she really say that? Well, almost.

I once read a book that was given to me as a Christmas present way back in the 19960s when I first got interested in politics. It was 'The Anatomy of Britain'. What it demonstrates was how a relatively small elite, from the 'right' backgrounds, who went to the 'right' schools 'ran' Britain. Sadly it is still true today. Which brings me to the New Year's honours.

I do not like the honours system. It perpetuates exactly the problem described above. The honours system still makes little sense. I am pleased for those who have received an honour 'from the Queen'. I am particularly pleased when it goes to those who worked hard to fight injustice and most often against the establishment - people like Butler-Sloss, the people who think they are the only people who can run things. Born and bred to it they are. So when honours do go to someone who has spent a lifetime fighting them then I should be happy. But I still think the system stinks. And Butler-Sloss can be thanked for being honest enough to reveal how the members of 'the establishment' think. Thank you Lady Butler Sloss. You have made me radical again.