COLOUR BARRED

It’s that time of the year, also known as the silly season.  That said, the silly season seems to run all year round.  I refer of course to the “special interests” lobbies whose sole aim in life is to challenge the established order at every level of our society.

The latest challenge is directed at the composition of the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, where it is said, quite rightly, that there are no members of black or brown ethnic minorities sitting as judges, and why not!  Why not may be that there are no suitably qualified members of the black or brown ethnic minorities to be considered for such an appointment.  But to these specialist lobbies, that should be no impediment at all.  Better to have an incompetent black than no black at all, or so their argument goes.

I have never been in favour of social engineering, but then, I am neither black nor brown, so I can afford to be smug.  That said, the composition of these sceptred isles is changing year on year, and according to the latest statistics, as a WASP, I shall be an ethnic minor in 20 years’ time, max!  So does it matter, and should I care?

In some respects, I am past caring, as I watch the legal profession transmogrify before my very eyes.  The old ways, which had stood the test of time for centuries are no longer fit for purpose, so instead of trying to hold on to them, they are to be abandoned. I am filled with trepidation as to what will replace them.

I am prepared to meet the ‘special interests’ lobby to this extent.  Where there are two equally qualified candidates, and one is white and the other black or brown, then the appointment should go to the ethnic minor, soon to become the ethnic major.  But to stick a wig and gown on an unsuitable candidate and expect him or her to make the grade is ridiculous, and worse still, it will bring the legal profession and the judiciary into disrepute.

Finally, I ask in a spirit of enquiry if, by describing the ethnic minors as black or brown, I could be discriminating against yellow people.  Please advise, as it ‘s an ethnic minefield out there.

 

THE ROAD AHEAD

Enough and more has been said and written since June last year when by a slim majority we voted to leave the European Union.  Since then the differences between us and them have been raked over ad nauseam, and there are many more to come.

I voted to leave, not on a whim, but because I was fed up with the way the Union was being mismanaged by a battery of civil servants who cared little for the greater good, and more for their seat on the gravy train of pensions and perks.

There were, and remain, three areas of concern, and judging from Boris Johnson’s centrefold spread in the Sunday Times, I am not alone.  Immigration remains a major concern for many.  There are too many immigrants with little or no control over their numbers.  We are already overcrowded, with an infrastructure designed for a population of 10 million less than we have today, and it’s getting worse. Vast swathes of the green belt will be trampled afoot to build more and more houses that most prospective occupants cannot afford.  Vast swathes of green belt will be uprooted for more and more motorways, increasing congestion and pollution. And vast swathes of green belt will disappear under expensive and unaffordable rail links to get passengers from London to Leeds saving as much as 40 minutes on the journey!  Yippee Doo! It’s called progress.  These problems are exacerbated by the fact that we don’t have joined-up government. Too much grandstanding and not enough thought for the greater good.  It bodes ill.

I am also concerned about the competence of the European Courts which do not inspire confidence, either in their composition or in their delivery.  The Court of  Human Rights has made itself the object of ridicule with some of its judgments.  We all remember the case of the Jamaican Yardie who couldn’t be deported because he had a cat which had formed a close bond with him, and there are others too many to mention. In many cases, these judgments grate with the English Common Law, which has been around for centuries and tried and tested.  Europe has no common law, so their judgments are a miss-mash of the best and the worst of 27 countries seeking a common legal identity which they will never have.

The European Court of Justice, which the European Union wants to impose on us for ever and a day, has an equally patchy record and has little to commend it. Positively the worst that can be said about it is that it is self-regulating and so free from political control.  Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with the independence of the judiciary, I do not agree with a court that elects its own members (jobs for the boys) and sets its own remuneration rates with frequent and generous uplifts.

If access to the European Union is dependent, inter alia, on bowing the knee to their courts, then I echo the sentiments of a former President of France, the answer is Non.

WHEN LOVE FLIES OUT THE WINDOW

Sometimes Sir Paul Coleridge must think he is a lone voice crying in the wilderness, hoping to be heard but so far studiously ignored.

I refer to the ongoing debate over marriage, partnership, divorce and Gomorrah,  which have been bedeviling the legal profession and the law makers almost since Adam and Eve.  An attempt at meaningful reform was made in 1973,  which was the enactment of the Matrimonial Causes Act, and its intention to introduce the ‘no fault’ divorce.  This was a step in the right direction, but it quickly turned out to be the curate’s egg – only good in parts.

The good part was removing conduct from the divorce equation unless there were exceptional circumstances.  The bad part remains the requirement that one of the divorcing parties must petition for divorce, and support it with acceptable grounds.  These are desertion, separation and that old favourite, adultery.  The problem arose when none of those grounds was applicable.  The unhappy couple had grown apart and wanted a fresh start.  But to comply with the law, the petitioner had to plead something, and that often made a difficult and emotional situation worse, especially if the kids found out, and telling them it was all a charade doesn’t always cut the mustard.

Sir Paul Coleridge is a retired family court judge with clout, an earnestness of  manner and an abundance of common sense, and he has been pleading for the reform of the divorce laws for years.  He argues that  if after mediation the unhappy couple are still determined to call it a day, let them do so, and valuable court time can be better spent on the division of the matrimonial assets (after the deduction of legal expenses of course).

You will remember the recent and well publicised case of the couple where the wife was bored rigid in a loveless marriage, but that isn’t a ground for divorce, and the husband seemed more than content with his lot.  For all I know, they could be still in the loveless marriage and still ignoring each other.

Let me declare no interest whatsoever in civil partnerships, same sex or otherwise.  Call me narrow minded and out of touch if you will, but I believe in the sanctity of marriage between man and wife, and I believe in children being baptised with Christian names and not names like Peach Melba or Paddington Bear or Spanky Botty.  But like Paul Coleridge, I may be a voice crying in the wilderness.  But back to the plot.

In 2004, Parliament enacted the Civil Partnership Act, thereby giving its blessing to same sex unions, with all the rights and obligations bestowed on heterosexual couples.  First in the queue was the Portly Performer and his totally forgettable ‘other half’, and where he led, others swiftly followed.  Sadly however, heterosexual partners were left out in the cold to fend for themselves.

But I bring glad tidings of comfort and joy.  A private members’ bill going through the Commons will give to heterosexual couples the same rights as same sex couples.  At last common sense and decency will prevail, assuming of course that the Bill will become law.  If it does, it will remove the absurdity of partnership rights, which as things stand, do not exist, so where partners split up, they will have the same rights as married or single sex couples when it comes to matrimonial assets, instead, as now, it’s a lottery and down to a judge to determine what the parting couple intended in the absence of a written agreement when they got together.

Exciting or what?!?

CANDLE IN THE WIND

The sixties were an interesting and testing time for all who were there and remembered them.  The Cuban missile crisis was the scariest, the assassination of President Kennedy the most tragic, the student protest in Chicago in 1968 over America’s continued participation in the Vietnam war the most effective, and then, perhaps minor in comparison but still memorable, the Profumo affair was the most salacious.

As well as the Profumo affair, more later, there was also the absurdity of the prosecution of Lady Chatterley and her erstwhile companion Oliver Mellors.  Lady Chatterley’s lover was regarded in some quarters as an obscene publication, I kid you not.  The fact that it was written by D.H. Lawrence, one of the finest writers of the twentieth century, cut no ice at all with the twerps who decided to prosecute, and there was actually a trial.  All this because the words ‘fuck’ and ‘cunt’ were in the text, making judges swoon who were more comfortable with flogging, hanging and transportation. The case is also best remembered by the remark made by prosecution counsel to the jury, a robust group of horny handed sons and daughters of toil: “Is this the sort of book you would even wish your wife or servants to read?” Mercifully, the jury threw out the case, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Profumo scandal has been well documented, and nobody came out of it smelling of roses.  It had all the ingredients of a Barbara Cartland pulp fiction novel, only this was for real.  I remember it for two reasons:  I was there at the time; and one of the star players died the other day.  Christine Keeler has followed her friend Mandy Rice-Davies, who died 3 years ago, into immortality, and I shall miss them.

Their main claim to fame was as star performers in the sex romps at Lord Astor’s country pile at Cleveden in Buckinghamshire in the early sixties, where John Profumo was a guest.  Profumo at the time was Secretary of State for War, in the days when you made war, not love, so he was pretty high up in government and had ready access to secret documents.

Christine had a sweet innocence, and was only 19 years old when she was introduced to Profumo.  She was boobing around naked in the Astor pool when Profumo joined her at a canter, in he plunged, and in no time at all he was giving a whole new meaning to the breaststroke.

After the affair was exposed, Christine was treated abominably by the legal system, and especially the judiciary.  Profumo was rehabilitated and became a ‘good egg’, but Christine was treated like a common tart, to use the words of the sanctimonious Harold Macmillan, the then Prime Minister.  As one obituary writer put it, she was the woman, and the woman bears the guilt.  The English legal system has little to be proud of.

 

THE NHS IN CRISIS

I read that, once again, the National Health Service is on the brink of collapse.  Drugs are becoming unaffordable, Accident and Emergency departments are short staffed, junior doctors and overworked and underpaid, nurses are overweight and going back home, and general practitioners are struggling to meet the demands of an ever ageing population.

The latest ‘scandal’ to hit the headlines is the staggering increase in the cost of drugs demanded by the pharmaceutical industry, in some cases increasing life saving drugs such as quetiapine from £1.62 to an eye watering £65, and with the industry running a virtual monopoly on pricing, the government appears to be helpless.  Helpless or not, it’s called racketeering by any other name.

Surely to goodness it’s time to go back to basics and admit that with the ever increasing demands on the Health Service, we need to take some unpalatable decisions.  The first must be whether we can continue offering a health service that is free at the point of delivery.  Whilst this is political anathema to many, it is a step in the right direction, and it should be relatively easy to apply.  Those on income support will still be able to access the service free of charge, but those who can afford it will be required to make a small payment for the privilege of seeing a doctor.  By small I mean £5, or one and a half pints of beer, and if a visit to the doctor helps reduce the consumption of alcohol, so much the better.  There are several countries round the world which impose a modest consultation fee, Australia for one, and the argument that the sick and needy will not seek medical assistance if they have to pay £5 for the privilege is ridiculous.

Secondly, the number of missed appointments is staggering.  In my own rural surgery, they amount to 30% of ‘no shows’.  This is a criminal waste of precious resources, so I propose that if the ‘no show’ wishes to book another appointment, he must pay £10.

Finally, it’s time that the medical profession re-educates itself.  GPs must stop prescribing drugs every time one of their patients breaks wind, and start asking themselves if it is absolutely necessary.  My own case is a case in point.  I went under to repair an aneurysm, a successful operation I am pleased to say, and afterwards I was prescribed statins and pills for my blood pressure.  I asked in a spirit of inquiry how long they were to be prescribed, and to my astonishment, the doctor told me for the rest of my life.  I don’t like taking pills, so I said no, and in return I have a routine test for blood pressure and cholesterol.  That’s all that’s needed, and if either or both are too high, I change my lifestyle and dietary habits.  I don’t know how much I am saving the NHS, but I’m doing my bit.

None of us can live for ever, but it should be our responsibility, not the NHS,  to ensure that we look after our bodies, so that old age is a part of life and not an intolerable burden.