Monthly Archives: February 2018

No Longer With Us

LORD DONALDSON

John Donaldson was born in 1920-2005 and educated at Charterhouse and Trinity College, Cambridge. After being commissioned in the Royal Signals, he was called to the bar in 1946, becoming a QC in 1961. From 1966-79 he was a judge of the high court, and from 1971-4 he was president of the National Industrial Relations Court. He was the presiding judge in several high-profile cases, including the MacGuires, the Guildford Four and the Bridgewater Three. In 1982 he became Master of the Rolls, an office which he held for ten years. He was made life peer in 1988.He is best known in some circles for his role as presiding judge in the infamous Guildford Four miscarriage of justice, especially his closing remarks where he regretted his inability to hang those wrongly convicted

96005_1_200px.jpg

I interviewed him in 1996 and here is the substance of what he told me then.

The typical caricature of a judge is of a rather pompous and unapproachable character. You obviously don’t fit into that category … have you felt rather set apart from most of your colleagues in that regard?

It’s a complete myth that judges are like that. I’m not saying that there isn’t the odd judge of whom that might be said, but in general it certainly isn’t true. And in so far as I’m not pompous, I don’t feel set apart.

Your education and background – Charterhouse and Trinity, Cambridge – are, however, rather typical for a high-court judge. Is it a good thing, do you think, that you were in the traditional mould?

You have to go back to that period when most of the jobs, not only in the law but elsewhere, were held by people who came from public schools and Oxbridge. It wasn’t that there was anything special about the judiciary. Today it is very different; it would be quite wrong to think that the current judiciary comes from public schools and Oxbridge. This has to do with an evolving society in which there are much wider opportunities than existed in pre-war times.

In 1984 you say that one thing lawyers are trained to do is to know their prejudices and their preconceptions and to isolate themselves from them. How would you identify your own prejudices and preconceptions?

[Laughter.] I don’t actually keep a check list of prejudices and preconceptions. The context is everything. Suppose, for example, you believe that in the shipping world there are certain nationalities which are more suspect than others, you still have to approach each individual from that nation on the basis that he is honest until the contrary is proved.

Do you think you have succeeded in standing back from these prejudices in your own professional life?

The answer to that must be yes, but if I hadn’t succeeded I’m not sure I would be conscious of the fact. As a barrister, however, you are trained to be objective, it’s in the interest of your client that you should be objective, and when you go on to the bench you’re merely continuing the objectivity. As a barrister you sometimes have to act for someone whom you regard as a most objectionable character, but you just have to ignore your dislike. When you are a judge it’s the same thing – you just put it on one side.

You once said that you have always regarded the law as a benevolent force in our complex society. Have you ever had reason to take the opposite view – also a common perception – that the law is an ass?

Individual laws perhaps, but the law as a whole, no. It’s much misunderstood, notably by the media, but I don’t regard it as an ass at all. There are of course people who litigate in circumstances where the costs grossly exceed what’s at stake. One of the things that most irritates me is when litigants tell me that there is a point of principle involved. I’ve only ever known one man who litigated as a matter of principle and that was one of the McWhirter twins. He himself probably had only a marginal personal interest but he thought that the point was of general importance, and significantly he was proved right.
You first rose to fame – or perhaps notoriety – at the time of the ill-fated National Industrial Relations Court [1972-4]. Rightly or wrongly you were seen as a political appointment, and a number of Labour MPs signed a motion calling for your dismissal on grounds of political bias. How did you cope with being in the firing line?

The fact that I was irremovable made the whole thing so much easier. The pressures from various segments of society were absolutely enormous, but it would all have been much more difficult if I could have been removed. If somebody is standing on the edge of a cliff and there is a gale blowing, his difficulty is knowing to what extent he can lean forward into the gale without falling over the edge. If you know that you are planted firmly you don’t have to bother. Of course, I’d rather not have had those numbers of people objecting, particularly when it was on entirely false grounds. You must remember that I was well aware at the time that much of the comment being made about the way I was carrying on the job had nothing to do with how I was performing; it was a political campaign. One irritation which I suffered was a story which ran and ran that I had been a Conservative parliamentary candidate. It was totally untrue. I believe the originator of the story was somebody who should have known better, namely Lord Jenkins of Putney. What he was actually referring to was an election for the Croydon Burgh Council in which I was a ratepayer candidate. I agree that the ratepayers were Conservatives, but in those days they called themselves ratepayers because they were purely local politicians and didn’t wish to have anything to do with national politics.

You took the unusual step of defending yourself against the charge of political bias at the time … were you absolutely confident that you could be free of such bias?

I can’t remember doing so … but if you tell me I did I suppose I must have done. There was certainly no question of political bias; what we were there to do was to try and smooth the course of industrial relations, and in many ways we were quite successful actually. It was an interesting world in which nothing was as it appeared to the public at all. We had excellent relations to the unions, subject to the proviso that we never revealed that we were talking to the unions. The unions, while perfectly reasonable in talking to us, remained free to be totally unreasonable in public. It has been a feature of trade-union life – certainly in my experience – that they operate on two levels. People may regard that as dishonest or reprehensible; I actually don’t, because unions have been brought up to do this and that’s fine by me. As long as you understand the system then it works perfectly well.

In 1972 you spoke to the High Court Journalists’ Association and made a most colourful remark in defence of the charge of political bias which has followed you around ever since. You said: ‘My attitude towards political life is much the same as that of a monk towards sex – nostalgic memories of youthful indiscretion, a frank acknowledgement of its attractions, and an unshakeable conviction that I could do better than those engaged in it.’ What puzzles me is this: granted that we allow the monk a bit of sexual experience, albeit in the past, it is surely not unreasonable to assume that during his sexually active period he might have developed certain preferences for one thing rather than another, and that these might remain with him, even if at a purely imaginative and notional level. In other words, your own politically active life, albeit in the past, might continue to influence you later opinions and judgements…

What the remark was really meant to reflect was that during the 1930s I was an active Conservative politician, not in the sense of being a member of the House of Commons, but in my capacity as chairman of the Federation of University Conservative and Unionist Associations. I was secretary of the Cambridge Union and if I had been asked at the stage about my future career I would have said I wanted to be to be a Conservative politician and the prime minister. It was partly with that in mind that I became a member of the Croydon County Burgh Council, but it became perfectly apparent to me as time went on that as a junior barrister it was impossible to have a political career. It was like sitting on a three-legged stool, one leg being family, another politics and another the bar, and it was quite clear that one leg was going to give way. So beyond being active in the Inns of Court Conservative Association and similar organizations I did nothing about it. By the time I took silk I had become a good deal less enchanted with the political life. I once heard a member of the Commons, a Conservative politician, talking complete rubbish in Croydon, and that made me question whether the career was a sensible one. I certainly mitigated my enthusiasm. When it became quite apparent that as a silk I couldn’t do it, I became more and more non-political. My philosophy at that time would certainly have been much more on the Conservative or Liberal wing of the spectrum than on the Socialist wing, and I think that is probably still true, except that New Labour seems to have caught up. But it never occurs to me now to be party political; I’m a cross-bench peer and that’s not out of loyalty to my past profession – it’s my actual philosophy.

Would you agree, however, with the public perception that most judges are conservative in both senses … to what extent is it reasonable to expect them to overcome their natural leanings in court?

It’s probably true to say that most judges are conservative with a small c, but one thing which is not sufficiently appreciated is that when the heads of divisions and the Lord Chancellor meet to discuss what name should be put forward to the Queen, the political views of the judge are never discussed.

The law, or the complex workings of the law, is often perceived to be remote from ordinary people and sometimes unavailable to them. Is this something which worries you?

Yes, indeed. The remoteness takes two forms. First of all there’s limited access, and secondly there’s the fact that the law has its technicalities, for most of which there’s a good reason. It’s very difficult to get rid of these technicalities or explain them in terms which would make sense to the general public. To say it’s a public-relations problem is perhaps misleading, but it is an education problem. There’s also the business of costs which are absolutely formidable. I don’t think that in general it is the fault of the lawyers, since it has become vastly more expensive to run a practice nowadays. If you decree that no solicitor was allowed to make a profit, I don’t believe that costs would come down all that much because such a very high proportion of solicitor’s fees represents pure expense. What we’ve really got to do is try and find systems which render the skills of a lawyer unnecessary. We also have to see if we can’t develop systems for dealing with disputes which are simpler and are perhaps taken outside the ordinary mainstream of the courts.

On the question of legal costs, it’s surely the case that some illustrious QCs today demand fees like film stars … do you think that’s justifiable?

Well, it’s a market, isn’t it? I also wonder just how much they do actually earn. For example, I remember once when the question was raised about having subscriptions to the bar council put on a voluntary basis, I thought it would be a very good idea to ask members of the bar to declare what their incomes were and to pay one pound per thousand. I thought the bar would make a large sum of money because everybody would be very happy to exaggerate their income, but that wasn’t the case at all.

You were one of England’s youngest high-court judges at the age of forty-five. Did you feel that as an awesome responsibility?

Not on grounds of age. I don’t think that people are conscious of the age of judges, and in any case I’d had an army career, I’d been a junior barrister, I’d been a QC – it was a natural progression. I was lucky in that a vacancy occurred which I was thought suitable to fill, but it didn’t bother me at all that I was young.

In 1974, after a Labour victory, you spent some years in the wilderness until Mrs Thatcher sent you to the Court of Appeal in 1979. Three years later she appointed you Minister of the Rolls. Setting aside the merits of your own case, do you think it is actually healthy that these appointments should be political? Doesn’t that make them open to abuse, or at least to the charge of abuse?

Obviously they are open to the charge of abuse. I’ve no idea whether or not my appointment to the Court of Appeal was on political grounds – I’m not privy to that. We’ll have to wait until you and I are both dead before any documentation emerges about that. I do know there’s a popular belief that that was the case. As I said to you, however, in the discussions to which I was privy, politics just didn’t enter into it at all; they were as irrelevant as the colour of the judge’s hair. Yet the charge persists. There are some who think that it would be a good idea to have a judicial appointments commission in order to get rid of the charge. One of the troubles is that a judicial appointments commission is also open to the charge of being political. And there are real difficulties if you start revealing the considerations which go towards appointments.

You succeeded Lord Denning as Master of the Rolls … was that a particularly hard act to follow?

Yes, quite impossible. One of the first things I had to do was to make it clear that I wasn’t Lord Denning, the second thing was to make clear that I was not Lord Denning mark II.

When you took up the appointment you immediately introduced changes to speed up the hearing of cases. In fact, your ability to dispose of cases became quite legendary. This led some clients and barristers to believe they were getting a less than fair hearing. How would you respond to that?

That was never the case. The plain fact is that in many cases when you first read the papers you can form a pretty accurate view as to what the answer is. The one vital thing is that you must always be prepared to change your mind, and I was. I once said, with only slight exaggeration, that the art of being a presiding judge in the Court of Appeal was to ensure that you never heard arguments from more than one side; the trick was to know which side.

You seem to be defending yourself against criticism by saying that as long as the right answer is arrived at, there is no harm in taking short cuts. But surely the point is that by speeding up the process and cutting short the argument, the right answer may not be arrived at.

Obviously that’s a risk you’ve got to guard against. It’s true I have always been conscious of the face that in trial work you get a barrister who bangs on and on and eventually you tell him that he’s made that point three times already, and suddenly, perhaps because he slightly alters the way he puts it, you become aware that he has in fact got a point. That has always worried me a little bit, because if I had succeeded in shutting him up I wouldn’t have understood it. The answer is, you’re not infallible.

When English law comes under attack, the normal defence is that even if it doesn’t always establish the truth, it tries to be fair. But over the years we have discovered that the big trials of the 1970s and 1980s were not fair. Surely this is a serious indictment of the system.

I don’t want to talk about the 1970s trial, because I was the presiding judge at two of them. It would be quite wrong for me to discuss them. What I would say is this: in every one of these cases the problem was one of evidence which has subsequently been found not what it appeared to be at the time. That is certainly not an indictment of the judges, and I don’t think it’s an indictment of the juries either. A case has to be tried on the basis of the evidence as it is presented to the court. The crown counsel in a criminal is not there to get a conviction, he’s there to present the prosecution case, and if anything comes to his knowledge which casts doubts on the prosecution case, he’s under a duty to either bring it out himself or hand it over to the defence. The defence on the other hand is there to get the man off within professional limits which are well known. There is a major difference between the two roles.

But shouldn’t we be much more tough on police evidence than we’ve been before?

Who is it who has to be more tough on police evidence? It is the jury that decides under our system, and a judge would be stepping outside his role if he said to the jury, look, you ought not to believe the superintendent. All that a judge can and should do is to advise them to weigh up the evidence. I’ve certainly said on many occasions to juries that the accused goes into the witness box in exactly the same position as a police officer: either may be telling the truth or not be telling the truth. It’s a great mistake to think that judges have suddenly woken up to the fact that there are bent policemen; we’ve known this for years.

Let me put it this way, shouldn’t the public prosecutor be more vigilant about police evidence?

Obviously it’s desirable that he should be as vigilant as possible. But when you suggest to me that he should be more vigilant I honestly don’t know to what extent he is vigilant at the moment, so it would not be fair for me to suggest that he should be more vigilant.

In the tricky area of miscarriages of justice your own record is rather worrying, because in 1976 you were responsible for sentencing the Guildford Four and the MacGuires. Do these cases still haunt you?

Not in the least.

Why is that? It was surely wrong to sentence them?

I said I didn’t want to discuss those cases. It would be quite wrong of me.

All right, we won’t discuss them, but they were innocent men, were they not?

Well, this is where we get into difficulties. The plain fact is that the courts are not in the business of deciding whether people are innocent; they’re in the business of deciding whether people are guilty. These are not two sides of a single coin. If you had something like a swingometer where the vertical position is the truth, you’re going to be to one side of vertical or the other in a significant number of cases, human fallibility being what it is. What the courts have done traditionally for a couple of centuries is – rather than to aim at the truth – to aim in favour of acquittal to a degree where we are reasonably satisfied that no innocent man will be convicted, bar the exceptional case. Now it follows from this that if on appeal a man is found not guilty it means that the needle hasn’t gone far enough towards the truth point to justify convicting him. The media always say that when somebody is acquitted, or if a conviction is quashed, that a man’s innocence has been established. Well, that just simply isn’t true. There are exceptional cases where that could be said, where, for example, a man put forward an alibi defence which wasn’t accepted by the jury and at a subsequent stage it was shown by unimpeachable evidence to be a watertight alibi. Then it could be said that he was innocent of the charge against him, but that is a very rare event.

If I might just take this a little further … Sir John May who enquired into the trial of the MacGuires in 1990 suggested that you seriously misunderstood and mishandled critical evidence during the trial. He said, ‘The conduct of the trial can be validly challenged on at least two counts.’ How do you respond to that?

There are two responses. One is that I don’t think that such a comment was within his terms of reference. Secondly, I don’t agree with it. He’s entitled to his view, but I think he’s wrong.

You declined to give evidence to Sir John May’s enquiry … why was that?

My recollection is that I didn’t decline to give evidence; what I said was that I thought that it was wrong for a trial judge to say anything other than that which was contained in the transcripts. One of the features of a criminal trial is that only communication between the judge and the jury is open in court. It is the jury who convict, and find the man guilty, and it would be wrong for the trial judge to say anything afterwards other than that which he said at the time.

Are you saying that a judge does not have much influence over a jury?

I think he has influence to secure an acquittal; I don’t think he has influence to secure a conviction. As I’ve said it is extremely important that the innocent shall be acquitted, even if some of the guilty are acquitted as well. I have done a very considerable body of criminal work, and never in that time was anybody ever convicted whom I wouldn’t have been quite happy to convict. There were also a very large number of cases in which I was totally satisfied that the accused was guilty and yet the jury acquitted. The whole thing is stacked, and rightly stacked, in favour of the accused.

Robert Kee said of you: ‘He does his best to be dispassionate, but he cannot see his unconscious prejudice in favour of prosecution.’ How do you respond to that?

If I cannot see my unconscious prejudice, it’s difficult to know how I can comment on it. He’s entitled to his view. I’m very glad he thinks I do my best.

But what is puzzling, and really rather worrying, is that in your case you have something of a reputation for not leaning towards the establishment, for not necessarily going for the obvious solution, and yet terrible mistakes happen…

What terrible mistakes?

For example people are sent to prison and after about eighteen years they’re suddenly released…

Well, mistakes will happen, it’s a fallible system. You’re obviously talking about the Bridgewater case, and as I’ve said, neither judges nor juries can do other than try cases on the evidence presented to them. Of what I’ve heard of the Bridgewater case, that’s precisely what happened. What worries me is that members of the juries who convicted in these so-called miscarriages of justice cases may feel that they have a responsibility for what happened. I don’t think they do, because they did their jobs, and they did it to the best of their ability. They have nothing to blame themselves for.

Shouldn’t the prosecutors bear a heavy responsibility for the number of wrongful prosecutions? I mean, either evidence was improperly obtained or faked, as in the case of the late Patrick Malloy, the fourth Bridgewater man, or details which might have helped the defence were withheld … Shouldn’t the prosecutors be accountable as they would be in any other profession?

Accountable to whom? The plain fact is that if individuals don’t do their job properly they don’t get employed again. It’s different with judges and barristers, but they are immune for a very good reason. If they could be challenged there would never be any finality in litigation. The losing party would probably start an action against his or her counsel and enthusiastic litigants would make sure that the process went on for ever.

Is there perhaps a more general problem built into our legal system? Since we have an adversarial system, have you ever been worried that in some cases the truth will not necessarily prevail because victory is sometimes merely a function of successful argument?

I think I’ve only once or twice thought an advocate so good that I really had to be a bit careful about accepting his arguments. But in general, adversarial justice is probably the best possible system.

But would you accept that there may be a small percentage of cases won or lost through advocacy, rather than the prevailing of truth?

There are perhaps one or two cases that are lost through bad advocacy, but I’m not sure that cases are won by good advocacy. The theory is much exaggerated if it’s true at all.

After the appeal of the Birmingham Six, Lord Denning said on television that public confidence in the law was more important than one or two people being wrongly convicted … what was your reaction to that remark?

It was an unfortunate remark.

Lord Denning also said that Chris Mullin had done a great disservice to British justice. Many people believe that Lord Denning ought to have been publicly condemned and brought to account for that remark. Do you?

I don’t know about the remark, but I do think there is a problem with programmes like Rough Justice and their newspaper equivalents, because they only present one side, and the great British public assumes that there is no other side. I don’t criticize journalists for not going into it objectively – they don’t have the facilities to do it – but what that means is that you then get two systems of justice, trial by media and trial by the courts; and that is bad for the courts. I really would be much happier if investigative journalists would reach their conclusions and then pass them on to the appropriate authorities rather than making them public. That would serve the interests of justice, just as much as what they’re doing at the moment. Of course, it wouldn’t serve the interests of newspapers, and that’s the problem.

Is that why you intervened when the Daily Mail accused the five men of the murder of Stephen Lawrence?

Yes. There could be nothing more directly designed to destroy confidence in our legal system than for the Daily Mail to denounce the five men as murderers and suggest that therefore the system of justice had failed. In truth, of course, the Daily Mail may or may not have been right that they were responsible for the killing of the Lawrence boy, but as I said, the system is designed not to establish that fact but to establish whether we were all so sure that they could be properly convicted. The fact was that on the available evidence, the court was not satisfied. It’s not then the business of the Daily Mail to say that they were satisfied that the men were murderers. They could have done no greater disservice to our system of justice, but the public at large don’t understand this.

Some years ago I interviewed Hugh Callaghan, one of the Birmingham Six, and that put the enormity of miscarriages of justice in a very human context. It’s difficult not to feel a sense of shame and humility in the face of an innocent man’s life having being largely destroyed. Aren’t we all demeaned by such a tragedy?

No, certainly not demeaned. Human justice is fallible. We have in every case to examine what went wrong and the degree to which it went wrong, and then we have to try and see how the system can be improved.

How do you view people like Robert Kee, Ludovic Kennedy and Chris Mullin and more recently Paul Foot? Have they been thorns in the flesh of the legal system?

They are not thorns in the flesh. They are pursuing campaigns; whether they are as objective as one would like is a matter for argument. I suppose it can be said that they do good when where eventually convictions are quashed, but some things they say go a good deal further than are fully justified.

But if it does some good in the end…

But it’s also doing harm in the sense that it is destroying confidence in the system. The assumption the public make is that if people complain enough then they must be right, and that isn’t true, if the system rejects the claims, then the public feel that there are innocent people in jail, which may also not be true.

Looking back on your career, do you have any regrets about anything – things you might have done differently?

We will always make mistakes, and I will give you an example of a case where I certainly got it wrong. In the Industrial Relations Court with the Midlands coldstore dockers, they were defying the court and it seemed to me to be perfectly clear that if we imposed a small fine they would go round to the pub and have a whip round and laugh all the way to court to pay their fine. If we imposed a large fine which would seem disproportionate if they were individuals (which of course they weren’t because there was an enormous organization behind them) they would all claim that they were being oppressed by the size of the fine. Since I thought this was all perfectly obvious to everybody, I decided the only answer was to imprison them. That turned out to be an error of judgement. What I should have done was to impose a small fine, let them have their laugh at the incompetence of the judge, and then put them inside because the public would have understood. It was really an error of presentation, not of justice.

You have had a long and happy marriage, ahead of its time perhaps in the sense that your wife had her own independent professional life, and you were sometimes in the Denis Thatcher role. Did you mind that?

Not in the least, though I think it would have been more difficult if I hadn’t had my own role in life. Of course Denis Thatcher has his role but it wasn’t a public role. We never felt competitive because we were operating in totally different fields. My wife would certainly have been very unhappy not to have an independent role once the children were of an age where they could be left. Of course in the early days of their growing up she devoted herself full time to them. We both think there are enormous stresses and strains in families where the children are young and both partners are working full time. It may be necessary, but it is not an ideal situation.

Are you a religious man?

I don’t know if that really has much to do with my professional career. The public does not have a legitimate interest in one’s personal beliefs.

I just wondered if you think it necessary or desirable for our judges to be religious, to be seen to live a good life?

Well, they’re two quite different things. You can live a good life without being religious … as it happens I’m not actually religious, but I believe in the values of Christianity.

China on the Move

As a boy of sixteen I read a great deal, especially stories by the American author Pearl S. Buck about China. This is where my interest in the country began in earnest. Now I find myself fascinated by what’s happening there, having visited the country on many an occasion. Surprisingly, my early interest in this vast country remains as strong as ever.

About a month ago, I read that China has announced plans to plant new forests this year that will cover at least 6.6 billion hectares, an area roughly the size of Ireland. The move is China’s latest bid to become a world leader in environment protection, after Donald Trump, the whacky US president, chose to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement last year. China’s state forestry administration target is to increase the number of hectares of forest in the country to 23% of the local land by 2020, with the figure currently at 21.7%.

Zhang Jianlong, head of the administration, said that by 2035 the figure will be up to 26%. ‘Companies, organisations and talent that specialise in greening work are all welcome to join in the country’s massive campaign,’ he said. ‘Cooperation between government and social capital will be put on the priority list.’

China, which has to feed a quarter of the global population using just 7% of the world’s arable land, has long struggled to strike a balance between industrial growth, maximising food production and protecting its environment. Its cities have been blighted with chronic air pollution due to rampant industrial expansion in the past few decades.

In 2014, China declared ‘a war on pollution’. As well as cracking down on polluting companies and punishing officials who break environmental rules, forest expansion and cleaning up polluted rivers have become top priorities. This year, new forest areas have been built in the north-east Hebei province, Qinghai province in the Tibetan plateau, and in the Hunshadake Desert in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region in the north.

Mr Zhang said that 33.8 million hectares of forest had been planted nationwide over the last five years with a total investment of more than 538 billion yuan (£61 billion), bringing the country’s total forest area to 200 million hectares. Three new state forests with a total area of 483,000 hectares would also be built in the new Xiong development in Hebei Province, he said. The heavily polluted Hebei which surrounds the capital Beijing has pledged to raise total forest coverage to 35% by the end of 2020. The government has also introduced ‘ecological red line’ policies that require local governments to curb what they deem to be irrational developments near forests, rivers and parks.

It is unbelievable the extent of the progress that’s taking place in every sector in China at the present time. If things continue at this rate, China will soon become a gigantic world power which Napoleon predicted long ago.

 

A Poem for a Princess

Christina Oxenberg, author of Dynasty, has matured over the years to the extent that her talents keep improving with the passage of time. Her writing gets better; her personality reinvents itself to capture the trend of the moment; her sense of humour remains a talking point; and her knowledge of human frailties gives her a notable edge in everything she turns her attention to.

Dynasty-pic-tatler.jpeg

41jDVXHq6bL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The TLS reviewing her novel Royal Blue, which Quartet published in 1997, called it ‘at its best reminiscent of early Francoise Sagan, evocative and funny,’ while the Independent on Sunday said: ‘Oxenberg creates a languid, ferociously beautiful and barbarous world.’

Having not seen her for a number of years until recently, I am astounded by her capacity to grow in stature and captivate everyone she meets. Her book Dynasty, which we published a few days ago proves my point. She bubbles with energy and enthusiasm and it’s a joy to see her in action. Her future seems assured and I am proud that our reunion will trigger new dimensions which will elevate her sublimity to a woman for all seasons.

 

BREAD VERSUS DRIPPING

It’s remarkable how new studies tend to reverse previous beliefs that the likes of butter, cream and cheese are harmful, whereas now a major study confirms that their avoidance in our diet could actually increase the risk of an early death. Experts concluded low fat diets could do more harm than good – finding those who eat the least fat have the highest mortality rates. The research, presented recently at the world’s largest heart conference, challenges decades of dietary advice to focus on cutting fat. The Canadian research team, who published their study in the Lancet, said that fat may actually have a protective effect on health. They found those with the lowest fat intake were 23 percent more likely to die young. The scientists, instead, recommended cutting back carbohydrates – potatoes, bread, pasta and rice – which UK authorities say should be at the centre of a healthy diet.

Experts said the findings add to the uncertainty over healthy diets. Dr Mahshid Dehghan of McMaster University told the European Society of Cardiology Science in Barcelona: ‘For decades, dietary guidelines have focused on reducing total fat and saturated fatty acids. The body needs fat. It carries vitamins; it provides essential acids, it has a role in the body.’ She stressed that people should not eat unlimited fat and the British guidance of getting 35 percent of energy from fat would be the healthiest. But she warned the focus on low-fat dieting – a drive supported by UK authorities – means people often go below this level and fat is often replaced with carbohydrates and sugar, increasing risks to the heart.

Her team assessed the diets of 135,335 people, aged 35 to 70, from 18 countries, over 7.4 years. Researchers found those in the lowest fifth for fat intake were 23 per cent more likely to die than those in the highest fifth. And those with the highest carbohydrates intake were 28 percent more likely to die than those with the lowest. Researcher Dr Andrew Mente said: ‘Our message is one of moderation. Our data suggests that low fat diets put populations at increased risk for cardiovascular diseases.’ Public Health England recommends adults get up to 35 percent of their energy from fat and 50 percent from carbohydrates. British cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, who has fought against the advice that fat should be cut, said: ‘It’s time for a complete U-turn in the dietary guidance.’

Professor Jeremy Pearson, of the British Heart Foundation, said the UK should reconsider dietary guidelines, particularly in carbohydrates. A Lancet editorial by scientists at the US National Institute of Ageing warned years of confusion would follow, but Professor Susan Jebb, the British Government’s former obesity Tsar called the study’s finding into question – saying many non-diet factors could have contributed to the deaths. And Public Health England insisted it would not change its guidance. Its Chief Nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone said reducing fat intake was still recommended.

The controversy about fat intake still remains in certain quarters. However the best way to stay healthy is simply to moderate what you eat and the quantity that you eat. The rest is governed by your own destiny.

Madam, Where Are Your Mangoes ?

In the Journal Of the Commonwealth Lawyer’s Association the following book review of Madam, Where Are Your Mangoes ? by Desmond De Silva appeared in the current issue of the magazine.

412mmWgri7L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgHere what it emphasises :

“To say that Desmond de Silva QC comes with an exotic background and a remarkable
career would not be an exaggeration. Born in Ceylon of Sinhalese and Anglo-Scottish origins, schooled in England, married to a Yugoslav princess, called to the English
Bar (where he established a successful career as a criminal silk) and invited to carry out a number of international missions, including some high-profile ones such as the arrest of the Liberian strongman Charles Taylor for war crimes in Sierra
Leone, he has been in the limelight for some years now.

In these, his memoirs, he recounts the highs and lows of his eventful career. Included are reminiscences of some of the cases he has been involved in, pen portraits of many of the ‘great and the good’ he has mixed with, and observations on important developments in the world of English law. His affection for the common law and its continuing significance will be of particular interest to many, as will his trenchant observations on some of the more controversial happenings of recent years.
Sample this broadside on the diminution of the role of the
Lord High Chancellor:

Today, in 2017, there are forces at play that have even left members of the judiciary waiting to leave in droves. Something is terribly wrong when a barrister, in order to obtain a practising certificate, is required to make a contribution to a war chest maintained by the Bar Council to finance battles with the Lord Chancellor who, until 2012,when the rot set in seriously, was a distinguished lawyer and
the trusted voice for the Bar in Cabinet.

Hugely entertaining as it is, there is also – in common with many autobiographies – a certain amount of vanity evident in the book. But, taken as a whole, this is a volume which will be welcomed by lawyers and non-lawyers alike within the
Commonwealth.”

As his publisher, Quartet is proud to have had the privilege of having Desmond as one of its authors, such a great character, a brilliant QC and a man whose wit and joie de vivre is unsurpassable. Buy his book and you will be enthralled!

THE TIMES WE’VE SEEN…

As you get older your curiosity takes on new dimensions. Living long enables you to perceive the world in a different light, knowing quite well that your passage on earth dwindles with every day that passes by. Mine at present seems to revolve around astronomy which of late has discovered more wonders than ever expected in the past few months, all thanks to man’s ingenuity in building much larger telescopes which reveal the enormity of the universe and what it contains.

Even the Three Wise Men could never have kept up with this latest discovery. Astronomers are actively tracking the fastest object yet detected, travelling at more than 18 million miles an hour and, believe it or not, is still accelerating. The star, known as S2, is hurtling around the massive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way, our home galaxy.

methode-sundaytimes-prod-web-bin-96ff3290-e82f-11e7-8936-67803328d3f4.jpg

Astronomers have found it has an egg-shaped orbit. This is about to take it so close to the Black Hole that the intense gravity will accelerate it to speeds unimaginable for an object 15 times more massive than our sun, potentially reaching 2.5% of the speed of light.

They are tracking it with a very large telescope, the world’s most advanced optical instrument, in Chile. It is part of the European Southern Observatory, whose spokesman said that S2 observations would confirm aspects of Albert Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. This star of wonder will no doubt unravel further theories that have so far escaped our comprehension.

What an exciting time in which to live, in terms of scientific progress. At least this will hopefully deflect humanity from this current ghastly period, where evil and greed have befallen a society where morals seem to have disintegrated.

NO LONGER WITH US

Crosland (23 January 1927 -26 February 2011) was an American journalist and novelist who was resident in London for more than fifty years. She was the widow of the Labour Party politician Antony Crosland.

Here is the substance of an interview I did with her in 1987.

methode-sundaytimes-prodmigration-web-bin-8b64ee05-22e9-4539-85fe-f141f3393701.jpg

THE EARLY INFLUENCES
Susan Crosland: I was brought up in a close family – a very close extended family – and loved both my parents and was a much-loved youngest child of a youngest child of a youngest child. So I was very much a pet. At certain ages, my mother influenced me more; at other ages my father did, and it went on like that throughout my adulthood until they died. It shifted back and forth. My father was probably the greater influence in terms of tolerance. My mother was much more prejudiced, but I loved her.

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES
Susan Crosland: Child-rearing is where I would redress the balance. Largely because I think when the woman gets stuck with an atrocious husband – perhaps he isn’t even atrocious, probably just boring – but when she gets stuck and can’t get out of this marriage, and goes on running the household for a man she doesn’t love, who doesn’t appreciate her, she’s usually stuck because of children. She can’t leave the children, and she has no way to support them. If you could somehow put that right, give her help in child-rearing, I think a lot of things would flow from it. She’d be free to develop other sides of her character, and if she didn’t, that would be her problem.

FEMINISM
Susan Crosland: To my surprise, I find I have become a feminist. I thought I was born and bred a feminist because my mother had a job. Most of my married life I worked and I used to be rather complacent about feminists and think, why do they have to go on so about it, why don’t they just do something? All this going on and on about it. But that drip, drip, drip process of theirs has had some effect on me and I have come to feel that I was lucky, and I could fight my battles, such as they were, combine them with marriage quite happily, but most people can’t. By that process, I became rather a feminist out of compassion for women who hadn’t had any good luck and opportunities and can’t do it for themselves, and are trapped in poverty (money’s a big factor) or trapped in a marriage (a hollow relationship).

Middle-class women are trying to persuade the working-class women and the working-class women are on the whole content with the set-up as it is. Mind you, a hell of a lot of working-class women have jobs outside the home and, again, don’t quite know what all this talk is about because they have part-time jobs at Birds-Eye factories and talk to their women friends and are tough. But I think single-minded career women are probably thin on the ground still. One of the great advantages we have over men – and we have a lot of psychological advantages over men – is that we are not single-minded like Mrs Thatcher on the whole. We have families as well, so if something happens to the job, all are eggs aren’t in that single basket. We can be at home and lead a creative life, a full life, whereas the man, if he’s over forty and not very good at being at home – he’s underfoot and miserable. What I don’t like – it irritates me – is the married woman who beefs away about feminism and nags at her husband about the fact that he has the job and she doesn’t earn outside the family. Frequently she has help, frequently – we’re talking about the middle classes – the children are away at school. She beefs away about buying the groceries and this and that. Why doesn’t she get out – why doesn’t she get a job? Or if it’s that bad, why doesn’t she separate? And she doesn’t. Despite all these divorces, very few women pack in an empty marriage unless they have a replacement. And that gives me pain.

SEXUALITY
Susan Crosland: I’ve never wanted to be a man. I’ve never had penis-envy. I’ve always felt, even if I had understood it, the last thing I wanted was a penis, and now that I’ve come to understand it, I still think the last thing I want is a penis. Because of the anxiety. I suppose there are some women who get in that state of mind now over the great orgasm, but on the whole women don’t, and can have pleasure and satisfaction in different aspects of sexuality. Even the most tender relationship must have a tiny bit of anxiety in it for a man. The women can do what she likes – she can have an orgasm or not have an orgasm – she doesn’t have that anxiety.

My feeling is that the orgasm is overrated – that it’s lovely, and it’s important to have had the experience. What is most important, I think, is that the man wants the woman to have the experience, and then, if the women doesn’t have an orgasm every time, it doesn’t matter. There are other pleasures in sexuality – many – besides the big O. The key thing is that the man cares about the woman having this experience. And then, whether she actually has it time after time, is to me less important.

RELATIONSHIPS
Susan Crosland: I don’t want to be linked with another man. I’ve had that extraordinary relationship. I’m not going to have it again. I can’t have it again; it’s not going to happen again. It’s me and my children and family. I have a number of men friends, and some very close men friends, but I don’t want these men friends to move into my house and take me over, or me to take them over. I want them out there, separate.

Tony was a remarkable man who taught me so much. He liked the company of women, which no doubt was a help. Things are perfectly obvious to me now. They weren’t then. I was very young when I met him. So, for instance, if I made some rather dismissive reference to homosexuals – I can’t think why, but I did – Tony would say, well, if you find them so repellent, you are going to have to eliminate quite a few people from your life, because at some time or another they have probably been homosexuals too, certainly at school. And this was absolutely fascinating to me. It was the first time I had anyone to teach me that we all have everything in us – from sadism to masochism, to generosity to meanness, everything in some proportion or other. That we have everything – I did not know that. I learned it largely from Tony.

In the course of my thirteen-year marriage with Tony, it developed, as it wasn’t a static relationship, and our, if you like, fantasy in part of our relationship, was always that he was the man, I was the woman, and the woman did for the man. And that kind of pleased me. I liked that, I liked that role. But it was pretend, a lot of it. We used to pretend we both enjoyed it. Then at some point, when the feminist thing was happening and began to be so drip, drip, drip, I began to think about certain things, such as why was I the one who always had to buy the petrol for the family car? It seemed frightfully important that I was the one who had to buy this petrol. This was saying that Tony’s work was more important than my work. As, indeed, it was, as a Cabinet Minister and all that in this insane country, but it became a symbol for me so, out of character, I began going on about it and making this point. And he finally took to logic and said to me, you will have to be very careful or you are going to wreck this relationship. And what I said after I thought about it was, it isn’t going to wreck this relationship, it’s like two funnels. (That’s how I visualised it – two funnels.) And one funnel has my emotional fantasy life in it with you, and the other funnel is my intellectual relationship with you, and one doesn’t impinge on the other, there is no criss-cross between them. And he said, interesting concept, interesting concept – and that was the end. After that we shared buying the petrol. I didn’t even care. It was just a symbol.

I haven’t got any experience of a virgin marriage – I was never, have never been promiscuous, but neither was I a virgin when I married my first husband. Would it have been a better marriage? I doubt it makes a lot of difference. I know people who have entered marriage as virgins and have had a happy twenty-five years so far of marriage. I find it all remarkable.

DIFFERENCES
Susan Crosland: Because of the nature of women’s lives, unless they are career women and in an office, they have more time – if they are at home, which most of them are – more time to reflect and go over things in their minds. And women who are based at home tend – this is a generalization – to get things out of proportion, and therefore to be illogical, because they keep going over the thing in their mind, whereas the man puts it out of his mind. There is a sex difference here, perhaps, in that the man, in my experience, tends to go on to the next thing. He listens to what the problem is, but he doesn’t want to go on agonizing about the problem. Take a decision, that’s the end of it; go on to the next thing, go on to your office, but don’t go over and over the thing. And women, by thinking so much about a thing, actually should have cleared it up, but in fact get it out of proportion.

There you are, in your teens, with this bloody mess. I don’t like my period and I’ve never liked my period. I knew nothing about it until it happened. It was traumatic, literally traumatic, and I still don’t like my period. From the age of twelve or so, you’re dealing with the fact that you are bleeding once a month. My youngest daughter said, can you imagine how a man would feel?