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The drafting question in the civil litigation assessment for the LPC
I am not a LPC tutor. I am writing this blogpost as a matter of goodwill for students doing the Legal Practice Course. Current students should at all times be guided by their current SGS supervisors and examiners. This blogpost is only to provide a very basic introduction; and of course answers should be completely tailored to the question (not all items below will apply in any one question). For the civil litigation question, the key document will either be the particulars of claim (most likely), defence (much less likely but possible), or witness statement (much less likely but possible).
Particulars of claim
Students are usually told to assume that matters had progressed and A had started legal proceedings against B in the High Court. Students were then provided with draft Particulars of claim and were ask to identify and amend any errors in the draft document. This question requires students to identify any errors in the draft particulars of claim provided and to draft any paragraphs (or parts of paragraphs) that students considered were missing. A few students, apparently, also only identify the errors and missing elements of the particulars of claim and comment on them but do not draft the corrections. The instructions required students to identify any errors in the particulars of claim AND to draft any paragraphs (or parts of paragraphs) they considered were missing.
For students to gain high marks in this question they needed to:
- correct all typos and incorrect information;
- identify the missing elements in the particulars of claim and draft these elements; and
- correct and draft appropriate parts of the format of the document.
Some students answer this question well, but many finf this question challenging (a euphemism for saying sometimes the marks for this question are overall). In critiquing the particulars of claim, a methodical approach should be adopted to ensure it contains all the correct formal parts, all typographical or factual errors are corrected and the elements of duty, breach, causation and loss are dealt with.
There are some very good answers to this question by students who adopt a methodical approach to ensure that all the elements of the claim were dealt with.
Most students pick up marks by identifying some mistakes and missing formal parts in the document which might include some of the following, for example:
- description of claimant incorrectly as “claimants” when it was a company;
- description of defendant incorrectly as “defendants” when it was a company;
- formatting errors in the heading;
- general denial of relief paragraph was missing;
- in relation to the interest / damages paragraphs contained within the summary of remedies section, the cross reference to the relevant paragraph within the body of the draft particulars of claim was wrong;
- including a further implied term (e.g. fit for purpose);
- including an interest paragraph;
- incomplete description of the parties;
- incomplete list under Particulars of Breach;
- incomplete Prayer;
- incomplete Statement of Truth on the basis that it had been drafted by the solicitors;
- incorrect amounts;
- incorrect court (High Court of Justice);
- incorrect date references;
- incorrect interest paragraph;
- incorrect loss figures;
- incorrect name of the claimant;
- incorrect name of the defendant;
- incorrect title of the document;
- incorrectly shortened prayer paragraph;
- name of the firm was missing;
- neither party’s role was referred to as the first paragraph of the document as it should have been so this needed to be drafted in and the subsequent paragraphs re-numbered;
- no claim for the loss of reputation which had been suffered (if applicable);
- no proper causation – i.e. no linkage wording of the breach to the loss;
- no reference to the breach for either the express or the implied term;
- no reference to the express and implied term (e.g. fit for purpose);
- no reference to the express oral term;
- no reference to the relevant division of the High Court of Justice – i.e. the Queen’s Bench division;
- non use of a defined term for the word “Customers” which consistently was used with a capital letter throughout the document;
- not attaching the contract which is required by the CPR;
- reference to the first names but not the last names of the people acting on behalf of the claimant and defendant;
- stated that interest would be awarded ‘at such rate and for such period as the court thinks fit’;
- the authorisation by the claimant company was omitted from the statement of truth and the statement and should have concluded ‘I am duly authorised by the Claimant to sign this statement’;
- the defendant’s role was not referred to in the beginning of the document as it should have been;
- the interest paragraph referred to the wrong statute (the County Court Act which would only have been correct if the case had been in the County Court); it should have referred to section 35A Senior Courts Act 1981;
- the statement of truth needed an authorisation statement as the claimant was a company;
- the statement of truth should not have been on a page by itself;
- the summary of remedies or relief prayer should be in the claimant’s name and not the defendant’s and in relation to the interest paragraph contained within this section, the cross reference to the relevant paragraph within the body of the draft particulars of claim was omitted; and
- the wording “at such a rate and for such a period as the Court thinks fit” was omitted from the general interest paragraph;
The majority of the available marks are, however, available for correcting content errors and many students do well in this area by identifying that the duty was correctly set out, the breach was set out and correctly particularised and linked by causation to the losses suffered.
The errors normally include some of the following, for example:
- a copy of the contract has been omitted from the draft particulars of claim;
- a line needed to be added to show the causal link between the breach and the damage: i.e. ‘As a result of the breach of the…’;
- a new paragraph should have been inserted to deal with a further consequence of the defendant’s breach, the claimant’s loss to its reputation;
- a new paragraph should have been inserted to et out the implied term of the contract that the shower heads supplied would be fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality;
- a new paragraph should have been inserted to deal with the fact that as a further consequence of the defendant’s breach, the claimant was claiming damages for loss of reputation;
- failing to draft the interest paragraph or statement of truth properly;
- failing to link the breach back to the duty/term;
- the estimated loss of profit has been omitted as a head of damage and should be included with a revised total to the calculation inserted, as a result;
- the wording “and damage” has been omitted from the end of the first sentence;
- it was also necessary to clarify the breaches of the other terms of the contract (i.e. other express terms and the implied term) and link them back to the relevant paragraphs;
- it was necessary to add in a new paragraph to state that the defendant was in breach of the express term of the contract;
- it was necessary to state a term referred to was an express oral term of the contract;
- omitting the express oral term;
- omitting the implied term or including an incorrect implied term
- reference ithat the term of the contract was an express term;
- the particulars of loss and damage did not include an amount for the cost of a component and this needed to be added in and a new total loss amount calculated; and
- there were further particulars of the breaches which were not stated and should have been.
Common student errors or weaknesses in the drafting answers are:
- a copy of the contract has been omitted from the draft particulars of claim;
- a new paragraph should have been inserted that set out the implied term of the contract that the defendant would carry out its services with reasonable care and skill;
- a new paragraph should have been inserted to deal with a further consequence of the defendant’s breach, the claimant was claiming damages for future profits;
- a new paragraph should have been inserted to state, for example, the several customers had confirmed to the claimant that they would not be placing further orders with the claimant in the future (reasonable anticipated consequential loss);
- Inserting the names and addresses (including the company number) of the claimant and defendant – this information is provided on the Claim Form;
- it was necessary to add in a few words to state that the defendant was in breach of both the express and implied terms of the contract linking them to the relevant paragraphs above;
- not pleading the implied term of fitness for purpose and satisfactory quality or pleading a different implied term such as reasonable skill and care;
- not redrafting the statement of truth;
- not spotting that there had also been a breach of the implied terms of the contract (in addition to the breach of the express terms);
- only identifying some of the errors in the formal parts of the particulars of claim such as only considering the heading but not considering the end of the document and the statement of truth;
- pleading in a narrative style, which is more appropriate in a witness statement than a statement of case;
- removing key parts of the document when it was unnecessary to do so; and
- there were further particulars of the breaches which were not stated and should have been.
Students were asked to assume that a letter of claim was sent to A, and A responded indicating that it intends to defend the claim and that it accepts that the High Court in London has jurisdiction over the dispute. Further, students were told to assume that: a claim form was issued and deemed served together with the particulars of claim on a particular date; the relevant pre-action protocol was complied with and this has been stated on the claim form. Students are given a copy of the particulars of claim served by B. Students are provided with a first draft of the defence and they were asked to identify any errors in the draft defence provided and to draft any paragraphs (or parts of paragraphs) that students considered were missing. This question required students to identify and correct any errors in the draft witness statement considered in the previous question by marking them on the draft witness statement. Common findings are otherwise as above.
In critiquing the witness statement, a methodical approach should have been adopted to ensure it contained all the correct formal parts, all typographical or factual errors were corrected and the necessary elements of a witness statement in support of a summary judgment application were included. There are some good answers to this question by students who dealt with all of the above. Common findings are otherwise as above.
Most students pick up good marks by identifying some mistakes and missing formal parts in the document including:
- no corner marking;
- the witness’s details and relationship with the claimant was not referred to in the first paragraph of the document as it should have been;
- ]the wording at the start (“make oath and say”) was not appropriate for a witness statement and should have been amended to “will say as follows”;
- the “information and belief paragraph” was missing and needed drafting in;
- the meetings log should have been exhibited (as this confirmed the meeting which took place between the parties at the relevant time) and referred to in the statement properly marked as FS1;
- a paragraph referring to the summary judgment test should have been included including a formal request in for the Honourable Court to grant the order;
- the statement of truth was in the wrong form for a witness statement i.e. needed to be in the first person and did not require authorisation by the claimant.
Good luck! The assessments in the electives differ from the core practice areas in that invariably all drafting is done from scratch (i.e. you are not asked to amend any documents; you’re given a completely blank of sheet of paper.)
Assessment in Business Law and Practice for the Legal Practice Course
This blogpost is to provide with some clues about what you might expect for the BLP assessment for the Legal Practice Course. They are unofficial observations on the main three hour paper for BLP (the second paper is a multiple choice paper which is much shorter).
The aim of the main three hour paper is to offer you a series of fact patterns; and the aim is for you to make diligent assessments of the documents provided, for example, budget sheets or articles of association, to provide accurate advice for your client. A typical paper might consist of about seven questions, varying in length and contribution to the overall quantum of the paper. But there are certain favourite topics, which you would do well to be aware of. Please note that this blogpost should not be used as indication of what will be in your examination. The coverage of the entire syllabus has been pretty complete. For example, one of the questions not listed below is on business accounts, but you could find yourself discussing the impact of various commercial decisions on parts of the budget sheet. Any of the calculations you covered in the business accounts SGS could appear too. Please note that there can be variants of questions; for example the procedure plan might be focused on redemption or buy back of shares following some need to remove a director, for example, or the lead examiner might be much more interested in questions on setting up the original private limited company (exploring topics such as choice of business medium, or relative advantages or disadvantages of debt and equity finance). The main intention of the BLP exam is to ensure competence for aspiring solicitors to be regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, though the assessment will also provide ample scope for working out who the distinction level candidates might be. It might be that the lead examiner might feel that certain topics, such as private acquisitions or employment, are best reserved examining in detail in some later point for elective options.
I am not a BLP tutor, so please don’t take any of the below as other than well meant hints and tips. Thanks.
1. Corporate insolvency
The question on corporate insolvency could carry as much as about 15 marks.
In this question, for example, you might be informed that a company is in financial difficulties with a particular ‘fact pattern’. You might be told of a specific scenario, such as the company had recently disposed of an unused storage unit to an unconnected third party at a discount to its current market value.
You might be asked to advise what the implications were for the company (or its creditors) and for the directors of the company, for example. You might be expected to apply the “every step” defence preventing disqualification of a director, for example:
- undertaking regular financial checks;
- calling regular board meetings and raising concerns there;
- taking independent advice from an insolvency practitioner;
- speaking to the shareholders; and
- suggesting savings to be made in the running of the business.
You will need to apply carefully the statutory law, and include if relevant possible defence steps.
More than offence could of course satisfy the fact pattern. You should however be very careful about considering other issues which on the facts are not relevant to the question being asked. This is not only a waste of time, but also does not produce any marks.
The candidates who do well on this type of question will methodically apply the relevant statutory provisions concerning such transactions to the factual scenario, giving precise and accurate statutory references. They analysed the proposed transaction, with frequent reference to the statute, and outlined the potential consequences for the client if the creditor went into liquidation or administration (namely that the court could order the transaction granting the preference to be set aside), in the same manner as they had considered such issues in the SGS.
2. Removal of a director
This might be quite a quick scenario for about 10 marks.
You might directed to consider some Proposed Articles, and, for each of three proposed articles, explain (i) whether that article was legally permissible, and (ii) whether it was commercially and practically suitable for a proposed limited company.
You might be given a fairly typical scenario of documents that had been served on the board of a company seeking the removal of a particular as a director and advise the board on the steps it should now take and the likely sequence and timing of events.
The question normally students to advise on the procedure to remove a director under s.168 and ss. 303-305 CA 2006. You might also be presented with the perspective of how a director could protect himself or herself from such an action.
Most students answer this type of question very well, but weaker students tend to give vague, generic answers on the commercial points rather than applying the given facts to the details of the question.
3. Procedure plan
Such a question might expect candidates to prepare a procedure plan to implement the appointment of director A, the resignation of director B, the entry into the service contract of director A and the issue and allotment of shares to director A.
This is quite often the most significant question in the main BLP paper, attracting about twenty marks out of 80, i.e. one quarter of the total marks available for the overall BLP examination. The question also asked students to consider all post-meeting matters, to specify the order in which the steps must be taken and who needs to take each step. Students are told normally not to consider the written resolution procedure.
The majority of students will manage to achieve the marks available for basic points by setting out and explaining the board meeting, general meeting, board meeting sequence and standard resolutions required (e.g. board resolution to approve notice of and board resolution to call the general meeting). The question also asks students to consider who would take each step and to list the requisite filings and other post-meeting matters. Students are normally told not to consider the written resolution procedure.
However, there are often several distinct areas where weaker answers do not provide any or sufficient analysis, particularly if the procedure plan involves issuing shares; for example the detail of the procedure for issuing shares can be lacking in answers. Students need to focus on the five-step process for issuing shares in order to establish which resolutions, if any, would be required to score highly. Some students will lose marks by not giving full statutory references, e.g. MA 17(1)(b) to appoint a director, and MA 9(1) in relation to calling a board meeting. Some answers did not show sufficient attention to detail, for example by failing to state what would happen, in the correct order. Some students said that the existing directors would resign before the replacement directors had been appointed.
There are various ways in which distinction answers might excel themselves. For example, distinction answers might describe how the issue of ordinary shares would affect the voting rights of the existing shareholders and would enable individuals to block special resolutions whereas the preference shares did not carry any voting rights.
This could be asked about in a number of ways.
Students might be asked to identify any typographical, grammatical or formatting errors or inconsistencies and any incorrect or inconsistent use of defined terms. This part of the question tested students’ attention to detail and their knowledge of the conventions of good drafting.
Most students made a fair attempt at this part of the question. Students who scored poorly on this part of the question did not take sufficient care in spotting some obvious errors (which included spelling errors, naccurate cross–referencing and use of singular vs. plural terms, inconsistent use of the definitions, inconsistent punctuation within the sub-clauses of clauses, inconsistent numbering of clauses and errors in the cross references to clauses).
Students who earn good marks on this part of the question were those who paid close attention to detail and were therefore able to spot a wide range of errors. Weaker students will not pay sufficient attention to detail and fail to spot basic grammatical errors and other inconsistencies such as incorrect use of definitions, inaccurate cross–referencing and use of singular vs. plural terms.
A few students will fail to read the question properly and either re-drafted the clause or commented on the substantive drafting rather than identifying typographical, grammatical or formatting errors.
A student might also, for example, be provided with a “blue pencil” clause, to examine whether a student can assess a clause is likely to be too onerous or unlawful.
5. Substantial property transaction
This question might carry 10-15 marks, and might typically be in two parts.
A first part of the question might ask students to identify any statutory provisions that should be considered by a company, in connection with a proposed substantial property transaction, and state how the statutory provisions should be complied with
The facts might, for example, point to a substantial property transaction (applying ss. 190(1)(b) and 191(2)(b)) between a company and a person connected to one of its directors, the director’s father (ss. 242(2)(a) and 253(2)(e). High-performing students made specific reference both to the elements of the relevant sections and the facts provided in the scenario, to back up this conclusion.
A second part of the question asked students to explain the consequences for the company and its board, if the relevant provisions were not complied with. For example, most students would correctly cite relevant subsections of ss. 195 and 196: credit was awarded both for stating that the transaction would be voidable (not ‘void’) and for identifying individuals who, in this scenario, could face personal liability.
Students are given information about an individual’s financial affairs and told that the client is seeking advice about her income tax and capital gains tax liability.
In the aternative, Corporation tax can be asked in a number of ways, such as how anticipated losses could affect corporation tax liability, or how “straddling” comes about, when a company’s accounting period does not match the financial year.
You may also be asked about the specific scenario of the tax condideration of a ‘close company’ covered in SGS.
Your client, for example, has requested advice as to whether or not it should invest as it had been told it was a “very good bet‟.
This has not only been covered in the BLP SGS but also in considerable detail in the ‘decision tree’ worked examples for the PCR SGS.
You might be asked a question related to the proposed acquisition of A by B and asked, students to consider the advantages and disadvantages of structuring the transaction as a share sale, from say B’s perspective. Students will generally given credit for sensible points, including the following:
This question might alternatively ask candidates to consider whether a company could pursue a claim against the Seller in respect of problems with vehicles it had indirectly acquired following its purchase of shares. Most candidates , foe example, would therefore be expected to suggest that the company should review:
- the due diligence information it had received (for example any responses to any due diligence questions regarding the condition of the vehicles);
- the share purchase agreement (to identify any warranties or indemnities the Seller had made with respect to the vehicles and any vendor protection clauses the Seller had included to limit its liability); and
- any disclosure letter (to identify any issues disclosed with respect to the vehicles which might preclude a warranty claim).
The case for dementia screening: business case-based or evidence-based?
Dementia screening: what’s the problem?
Whatever your political ideology, you can’t help be aware of the various vested interests at play in society.
Dementia is no different. Evidence-based policy is public policy informed by rigorously established objective evidence. An important aspect of evidence-based policy is the use of scientifically rigorous studies to identify statistically-signfiicant conclusions, capable of improving policy-relevant outcomes. A business case, on the other hand, captures the reasoning for initiating a task. The logic of the business case is that, whenever resources such as money or effort are scarce, they should be in support of a specific business need, such as delivering a financial surplus or profit.
What is “screening for dementia”?
In the UK, physicians have been pretty clear that screening healthy people for disease or risk factors is justified only if there is strong evidence that the benefits outweigh the harms. Primary care, and the media at large, can also help to open up a new market by referral to private health providers of screening services.
The “worried well” have traditionally tend to be natural targets, but it has been mooted recently that convincing someone that he or she “needs” to be screened for dementia is made much easier by the fact that she or she may be very frightened about such a diagnosis (Fox et al., 2013). Indeed, earlier this year, some leading medical practitioners warned that, “private health screening companies are using scare tactics to persuade people to part with their cash.”
Screening for dementia in England has been mooted before publicly, and largely has been driven by politicians rather than academics. Screening is defined as the process of identifying apparently healthy people who may be at increased risk of a disease or condition. They can then be offered information, further tests and appropriate treatment to reduce their risk and/or any complications arising from the disease or condition.
A specific problem to do with dementia is that dementia in fact covers a huge number of different causes with different clinical presentations, so it is not possible that there would be a single one ‘test’ for likely dementia in a person who is still living. Alzheimer’s disease, epitomised by early memory loss, is thought to be, by far, the most common type of dementia worldwide.
Are there any benefits of screening for dementia?
An evidence-based analysis of the likely benefits of treatment is important in any medical specialty. Dr Aseem Malhotra queried recently in the BMJ why an asymptomatic and active former US president, George W Bush, receive a stent after a yearly check up. Malhotra cites that, in economic terms, the average purchasing cost of the machine that works the pump is about £40 000 (a specialist cardiac hospital may buy one or two of these), and the individual pumps come at about £800 a patient. .
For the past few decades, scientists have been trying to identify reliable markers of substances found in the fluid surrounding the brain which might act as a marker of the most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, long before the onset of dementia. Other groups have desperately been trying to scan the brain to see if they can spot subtle changes in the brain much earlier on the onset of symptoms. Even parking aside the costs of these approaches, the results of these aggressive endeavours in biomarkers and neuroimaging have been poor.
There is no ‘cure’ for Alzheimer’s disease currently. “Cholinesterase inhibitors” constitute a class of drug used for Alzheimer’s disease, but the very modest effects of treatments to improve memory such as the cholinesterase inhibitors have in fact been well known for some considerable time (Holden and Kelly, 2002). At the time of writing this article, these drugs were not shown reliably to slow down the rate of progression in the majority of clinical patients with this disease from any published study.
A mild cognitive impairment (“MCI”) is a clinical diagnosis in which deficits in cognitive function are evident but not of sufficient severity to warrant a diagnosis of dementia (Nelson and O’Connor, 2008). It might be attractive to think that MCI is a preclinical form of dementia of Alzheimer Type, but unfortunately the evidence is not there to back this claim up at present: only approximately 5-10% and most people with MCI will not progress to dementia even after ten years of follow-up (Mitchell and Shiri-Feshki, 2009).
However, it is argued by some that, In terms of service provision, one major issue is that in current systems less than a half of people with dementia have a formal diagnosis made, or contact with specialist services, at any time in their illness (National Audit Office, 2007). Such diagnosis and contact often only occurs late in the illness and in crisis when the opportunities for harm prevention are limited, according to Banerjee and Wittenberg (2009).
Leifer (2003) legitimately asks, “why diagnose a disease in its earliest stages if it cannot be cured?” A compelling reason is provided that patients and their friends or family have the moral right to know their diagnosis. On a practical level, it is reasonable to argue that any potential hazards can be minimised or eliminated (e.g., driving, use of a stove), and education of caregivers regarding the disease and its implications will allow them to adjust and adapt over a longer period of time.
There has been much interest in working out why there has been a sense of ‘moral panic’ about certain public health messages. Dementia has often been presented as an ‘epidemic’ in the media, and Campos and colleagues (2006) believe that part of the answer may lie with overlapping (and often conflicting) set of economic interests among various public health constituencies. They cite that many of the leading obesity researchers who have created the official standards for what constitutes ‘overweight’ and ‘obese’ have also received sizable funding from the pharmaceutical and weight-loss industries.
People with financial interests seek out ways of affecting the social or political climate in which their business-oriented activities can thrive, to create new wealth. Tullock’s (1967) paper in the Western Economic Journal (now Economic Inquiry) is the foundational event in the theory of “rent seeking”. Whether intended or not, the recent “Prime Minister Dementia Challenge” has created a perfect environment for such activities to take place.
Unfortunately, it is completely legal for the companies to offer these screening services, but their promotion of these services contrasts with the stance of the NHS which introduces screening programmes only after a robust review of the evidence against internationally recognised criteria by the UK National Screening Committee (McCartney, 2009). The UK National Screening Committee (“UKNHSC”) is responsible for making recommendations for screening across all clinical areas, including cancer. The last review completed in June 2010 decided that the UKNHSC did not recommend systematic national screening for Alzheimer’s disease in the UK.
This was yet further confirmed only a few months ago in the finding from a systematic review that screening the population for dementia offers no clinical benefits, while potential harms such as the risk of depression, anxiety, stigma or loss of independence remain unexamined in any study the researchers could find (Hawkes, 2013). The study was presented this week at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Boston.
All in it together?
There is now a ridiculous situation where even medics might be ‘divided’ over this issue. While the academic community is pretty consistent in their criticism, there is currently a policy in place for GPs to be paid for meeting targets in tests related to the dementia diagnosis known as “QOF” (currently under review.)
The ‘political drive’ in the UK most famously came under fierce criticism in the BMJ as follows:
Expanding the diagnosis of dementia mostly increases profit for corporations and industries involved with developing screening and early-diagnosis tests, and pharmaceutical and complementary medicines marketed to maintain cognition in old age.
.. The desire of politicians, dementia organisations, and academics and clinicians in the field to raise the profile of dementia is understandable, but we risk being conscripted into an unwanted “war against dementia.
(Le Couter et al., 2013)
The academic community, nonetheless, have possibly played a part in feeding this commercial “market”; they are themselves dependent on financial grants to survive. The ‘Googlescope’, i.e. word searches through Google Scholar within the health-related literature, shows up a remarkably well-ordered increase in the proportion of papers mentioning ‘risk’ over 5-year periods from the 1950s to the present day (Heyman et al. 2009).
In any objective ‘Fact Check’, one cannot perhaps help avoid the conclusion that the case for dementia screening has been business case-led or evidence-based. It is a sad observation that the dementia policy is more to do with the economic, social and political power of vested interests rather than in the hands of experts who know about this field. Hopefully, with time, this mess will resolve itself.
Banerjee S, Wittenberg R. (2009) Clinical and cost effectiveness of services for early diagnosis and intervention in dementia. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2009 Jul;24(7):748-54.
Campos P, Saguy A, Ernsberger P, Oliver E, Gaesser G. (2006) The epidemiology of overweight and obesity: public health crisis or moral panic?Int J Epidemiol, 35(1), pp. 55-60.
Fox C, Lafortune L, Boustani M, Dening T, Rait G, Brayne C. Screening for dementia – is it a no brainer? Int J Clin Pract. 2013 Aug 16. doi: 10.1111/ijcp.12239.
Hawkes N. Systematic review finds no benefits to population screening for dementia.BMJ. 2013 Jul 19;347:f4638. doi: 10.1136/bmj.f4638.
Heyman, B. Alaszewski, A, Shaw, M, Titterton, M. (2009) Risk, safety and clinical practice: health care through the lens of risk. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Holden, M., and Kelly, C. (2002)) Use of the cholinesterase inhibitors in dementia, Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 8, pp. 89-96.
Le Couteur DG, Doust J, Creasey H, Brayne C. Political drive to screen for pre-dementia: not evidence based and ignores the harms of diagnosis. BMJ. 2013 Sep 9;347:f5125. doi: 10.1136/bmj.f5125.
Leifer BP. Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease: clinical and economic benefits. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2003 May;51(5 Suppl Dementia):S281-8.
McCartney M. (2012) What companies don’t tell you about screening. BMJ. 2012 Mar 28;344:e2311. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e2311.
Mitchell, A.J., and Shiri-Feshki, M. (2009) Rate of progression of mild cognitive impairment to dementia -meta-analysis of 41 robust inception cohort studies. Acta Psychiatr Scand, 119(4), pp. 252-65.
National Audit Office. 2007. Improving Services and Support for People with Dementia. TSO: London.
Nelson, A.P., and O’Connor, M.G. (2008) Mild cognitive impairment: a neuropsychological perspective, CNS Spectr, 13(1), pp. 56-64.
Tullock, G. (1967) The welfare costs of tariffs, monopolies, and theft. Western Economic Journal, 5(June), 224–232.
Reconfigure in haste, repent at leisure
Monitor has just announced that it intends to conduct an investigation into the challenges faced by small district general hospitals (DGHs) in their efforts to provide high quality and sustainable care. The regulator is asking for views from patients, providers, commissioners, healthcare professionals and other interested parties.
Even in the ‘neoliberal landscape’, there is a coherent economic argument that smaller DGHs can be more flexible, nimble and resilient in coping with the economic challenges of the NHS, as elegantly described in this recent Health Services Journal article.
District general and smaller hospitals are still populated by Doctors there with approximately at least ten years of medical training under the belt. So the idea that they are offering a second-rate service for the common medical emergencies is a fraudulent one.
Sure, it is possible to frame an argument that you can deliver a ‘mega hospital’ a bit like a “mega dairy“, but the argument that ‘big is more efficient’ is genuinely barking up the wrong tree.
For example, you will always need Doctors, nursing and allied health professional teams to deal with the ‘bread-and-butter’ of the acute medical take. This might include chest pain, acute shortness of breath (including acute severe asthma), acute exacerbation of an inflammatory bowel disease, an acute pneumonia, an acute headache, and so on.
Patients, understandably, wish to get to a local hospital without any fuss, and to be set on course for the correct treatment. They can of course be referred onto specialist centres if need be (for example an acute headache might be a bleed in the brain which requires neursurgical evacuation.)
The irony is that even people who understand markets appreciate that the market is ‘segmented’. It is impossible to address the needs of your ‘customers’, unless you understand what groups of customers desire.
The essential management steps of virtually acute medical emergencies are the same whether or not you happen to be in a district hospital or a large teaching hospital. This is because there is an acceptable standard of treatment of what clinicians would do for patient safety reasons.
For example, if you’re having an acute severe asthma attack, you are almost certainly going to have your treatment as described here on p.62 onwards of the British Thoracic Guidelines on asthma.
Monitor curiously mentions that ‘it does not wish to pre-empt the outcome’. This is extraordinary messaging. If it really really was confident about not pre-empting the outcome, why did Monitor feel to mention it at all?
We all remember David Cameron’s “no more top down reorganisations” pledge at the Royal College of Nursing Congress. The other classic is from August 2007, where Cameron promised a “bare knuckle fight” with the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, when he launched a campaign to safeguard district hospitals.
There are reasons why one cannot be reassured about what is happening.
Whilst Lewisham won its landmark fight at the Court of Appeal against the Secretary of State for Health this week, it has just been announced that two accident and emergency (A&E) units in London are to be downgraded.
Furthermore, it is reported that fast-track hospital closures through extension of the powers of the Trust Special Administrator, have been tagged onto the Care Bill through an amendment which has received widespread opposition.
And the previous mood music hasn’t been great. For example, in their pamphlet, “Dealing with financially unstable providers”, the King’s Fund stated that:
For a competitive market to work, it is argued that there must be consequences for inefficient providers and those who do not attract patients. Again, this requires a mechanism by which providers that lose business are allowed to fail and exit the market.
The Monitor consultation therefore feels, instead, somewhat like an undertaker doing a ward round on the intensive care unit populated by critically ill patients.
Fundamentally, the problem here is one of equitable access to healthcare in the NHS.
Suppose I offered you a choice between a carton of milk in your local corner shop which you can easily walk to, or from a supermarket five miles away. You can only get to the supermarket by getting in the car. It’s the same carton of milk. Which shop do you prefer?
The issues about ‘access to medicine’ are complex. They are also hugely relevant to what sort of society we want.
It would be a grave error to ignore the views of professionals such as Dr Jonathon Tomlinson, who for example here in the London Review of Books describes a typical surgery of his.
It's all too easy to dismiss Miliband's attack on energy prices. It fundamentally blasts Thatcherism.
Virtually all attacks on Ed Miliband regarding energy prices begin with the statement ‘Ed Miliband is right but…” That the Conservatives might be wrong on their basic economics is politically very worrying. And yet Ed Miliband has not sought to frame the article like a convoluted Oxbridge economics tutorial. Long gone are the days of Gordon Brown using logical inferences to explain why financial recapitalisation was needed to avert an even bigger global financial crisis. Nobody seemed to care. What did George Osborne wish to do exactly about Northern Rock. He didn’t say, and it didn’t seem to matter. Labour, the allegation, spent too much, and yet staggeringly George Osborne wanted to spend as much more. When asked to identify what it was about Labour’s economic policy which was so fundamentally awry, Tory voters invariably are able to articulate the answer. When further pressed on how the Conservative Party opposed this fundamentally awry policy, there’s a clear blank.
Ed Miliband and his team can explain how the market has failed, perhaps going into minutiae about how competitors end up colluding, except nobody can prove this. They therefore rig the prices, it is alleged, so that they can return massive shareholder profit, while the prices endlessly go up. The Tories will counter this with the usual reply that the profits are not that bad, and it was Miliband’s fault for introducing his ‘green taxes’. Anyone who knows their economics at basic undergraduate level will know the problem with this. It’s all to do with the definition of ‘sustainability’. Sustainability does not simply mean ‘maintained’, although you’d be forgiven for thinking so, on the basis of the mouths of PPE graduates from Oxford. It’s all about how a company can function across a time span of very many years, acting responsibly in the context of its environment.
It’s instead been framed as ‘the cost of living crisis’. The problem with the national deficit, while a useful tool in giving people something to blame Labour for supposedly, is that when somebody goes out shopping in a local supermarket he does not tend to think of the national deficit. Likewise, much as I disagree with the ‘Tony Blair Dictum’ that ‘it doesn’t matter who provides your NHS services so long as they are free at the point of need’, voters will tend not to care about NHS privatisation unless they have a true ideological objection to it. NHS privatisation as such makes little impact on the ‘cost of living’.
Energy prices are an altogether different bag. It is perhaps arguable that the State should not interfere in private markets, but surely this acts both ways? Should the banking industry, and more specifically bankers, be ‘grateful’ that they received a £860 billion bailout from the State as a massive State benefit to keep their industry alive? Or did they not want this money at all? Even you brush aside the need of the State to interfere legitimately with prices, it is commonplace for the State through the law to interfere with unlawful activities to do with competition. The prices are the end-product of an economic process of faulty competition, poorly regulated.
And there’s the rub. Ed Miliband’s ‘attack on energy prices’ is not just a policy. It is actually a political philosophy. It is more tangible than responsible capitalism or predistribution, although one may argue that it bridges both. The attack on energy prices, on behalf of the consumer whether hard-working or not, is indeed a political philosophy. Margaret Thatcher may have gone to bed with a copy of ‘The Road to Serfdom’ by FA Hayek under her pillow, and all credit to her for fundamentally believing, most sincerely, that the markets could be ‘liberalising’. With this attack on energy prices, Miliband effectively in one foul swoop demolishes the argument that markets are liberalising. In Thatcherite Britain, consumers are suffocated by the business plans of big business. Miliband’s discourse is not a full frontal attack on any business; it specifically targets abusive behaviour of corporates. And the energy prices are symbolic of much of what has proven to be faulty many times before. Andrew Rawnsley concluded his article at the weekend, advancing the theme that the current Conservative-led government is a bad tribute band to Thatcherism, by saying simply that we know what happens next. It’s not just gas; it’s everything which has been privatised, including water, telecoms, and so it goes on. Authors in the right-wing broadsheets can go on until the cows come home evangelising how privatisation is a ‘popular’ concept, but the criticism of the abuse of privatisation is far more popular.
And Ed Miliband doesn’t want to issue ‘more of the same’ as before. John Rentoul is so exasperated he is now left to write articles on how being called ‘Blairite’ is not actually a term of abuse. But these are yesterday’s battles. The battle over energy prices is a massive explosion in the world that the market knows best. Its shock waves are to be felt in how Labour conducts itself in other policy domains, putting people primacy ahead of shareholder primacy. And there’s a plenty of evidence that this is the Most Corporatist Government yet – ranging from the reaction to Leveson to how to allow ‘market entry’ in the newly privatised NHS. The public were never offered an antidote to the Thatcherite poison from Tony Blair, and, even after 13 years of Blair and Brown, many Labour members had been left mystified as to what happens next.
The beginning of that answer definitely seems to be end of Thatcherism. The answer seems to involve a new post-Thatcherite ‘settlement’ about politics, society and economics. Whilst distinctly populist in feel, it fundamentally blasts Thatcherism to the core, and is highly deceptive. Whilst easily dismissed, it intellectually is a lethal weapon.
Nick Clegg is bound to defend the Tory record, as he's a Tory. It doesn't matter to us.
It is beyond delusional that Nick Clegg is proposing to the voters of Britain that British voters are better off with a coalition government, with him as a permanent fixture as the Deputy Prime Minister. It may be spun that ‘behind the scenes’ he is known to favour David Cameron as he has worked with Cameron, but seriously? You must have surely worked with people that you’ve come to hate? It is, rather, well known that Nick Clegg is a Tory. He is utterly spineless, and has no liberal principles of his own. That is why many people serious about Liberal values have left in droves – or rather hundreds of thousands. Liberal does not mean snoopers’ charters. Liberal does not mean control orders. Liberal does not mean secret courts. Liberal does not mean propelling competition to be the overriding principle of a NHS which outsources as much as possible to the private sector, when the Liberal Democrats’ own constitution emphasises the principle of collaboration.
The question is: what will it take to get rid of Nick Clegg finally? Thanks to the legislation of the fixed term parliament, we already know that he will have to honour his promise to go the full distance. Vince Cable may offer sunny uplands in the form of the Coalition early, but it is merely a mirage. Many activists are worried about armageddon, which is widely predicted for the European elections. Oakeshott will be there to tell you he told you so, and Nigel Farage will yet again be the new messiah. However, none of this fundamentally changes anything. Nick Clegg is a Tory, and what he wishes to do after May 8th 2015 is utterly irrelevant.
Do people really care whether he wants to be in a Coalition with Ed Miliband? I strongly suspect Ed Miliband doesn’t wish to work with Clegg in a million years. The practical issue is inevitably how Nick Clegg is going to lead his party to vote with Labour to reverse a series of legislative steps from the present Coalition. It is inevitable that Labour will have to repeal the Health and Social Care Act (2012), and given the strength of feeling one cannot conceivably imagine LibDem MPs will now be whipped to vote against the legislation they originally delivered. Whilst it is common currency that most politicians are ‘professional’ and do what they are told, irrespective of what the country feels, Norman Lamb had no problems in implementing a £3bn top down reorganisation of the NHS when the political priority should have been to implement as soon as possible the Dilnot recommendations over the future of social care.
Say you’d submerged the Concordia, would you attempt to take credit for lifting it out of the waters? Say you’d driven a high speed train in Spain off the tracks, would you attempt to take credit for finding the ‘black box’ recorder? Nick Clegg incessantly criticised the economic policy under Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling in the dying days of the the final recent Labour government, and did his best totally to misinform the public. It could be the case that Labour did a dreadful job in explaining how the £860 billion was deemed ‘necessary’ in keeping the banks afloat, whilst maintaining a record level of satisfaction in the NHS. However, Nick Clegg, Simon Hughes and Danny Alexander did a splendid job in a coalition of lies with George Osborne and David Cameron in arguing that Labour had bankrupt the UK and we were close to the Greek situation. It is therefore not a great achievement that we have a feeble recovery. The argument that ‘Ed Balls does not even agree with Ed Balls’ has not reached lift off despite the best peddling from Tim Farron and Nick Clegg, and the BBC, because the facts speak for themselves. Whilst they proudly boast that the UK economy did not have a double dip or triple dip, it is incontrovertible that the UK economy had actually been recovering in May 2010.
So what Nick Clegg wants is irrelevant. In as much politics can be personalised, Clegg has become a figurehead for anger amongst a wide variety of issues important to Labour voters. While Clegg maintains his stuck record mantra of ‘lifting people out of poverty’, the list of cock ups from Clegg is truly lamentable. It is impossible to know where to start – but you could try the UK economy, the scrapping of the employment support allowance, the shutting of libraries, the scrapping of Sure Start, the scrapping of ‘Building Schools for the Future, and the destruction of the network of legal centres in England. Clegg’s horrific, even if he is a ‘great reformer’ of sorts. He represents all that is fundamentally sick with unprincipled, undemocratic politics. He is a sickening ‘career politician’ who built a brand of ‘no more broken promises’, while breaking a promise he publicly signed a pledge for regarding tuition fees.
Ed Miliband continues to be slagged off by the Liberal Democrat hierarchy, though less so by some on the left of the Liberal Democrat Party. Why should he particularly wish to embrace them as part of the progressive left? The reason he might is that Ed Miliband is a social democrat who doesn’t particularly mind standing up for principles he believes in, even if this means antagonising the Blairite press such as David Aaronovitch or John Rentoul. He called out ‘irresponsible capitalism’ in an universally panned conference speech in Manchester in 2011, much to the ire of the Blairite critics (surprise surprise), but nobody can dismiss how this important concept, passported from the seminal work of Prof Porter at Harvard, has taken root. The ‘transformation’ of ‘reforming’ the public sector in outsourced services has been incredibly unpopular with the general public, who are much better informed than the Coalition politicians would like to believe. You’d have to be on Mars not to be aware of the fraud allegations of A4e, Capita, Serco or G4s.
The public will not give credit to the Liberal Democrats for the economy. They might conceivably give some credit to the Conservatives. And yet the picture of the UK economy is not clear. The total number of people in employment has been rising consistently for many years now, irrespective of who is government. The Conservatives will have real problems in establishing living standards, as the cost of living has risen exponentially due to privatised utilised creaming off profits in the utilities industries. These utilities industries are typical ‘oligopolies’, where the product is virtually the same for the end-user whoever the provider is, prices are kept artificially high by all the providers (but proving collusion by the competition authorities remains virtually impossible), and shareholder profits are shamelessly high. Norman Tebbit have dug out a trench in no foreign ownership of Royal Mail, but there is no such legislation about foreign ownership of the utilities nor indeed the NHS.
Nick Clegg may have been the future once. But he’s now finished.
Is this agreement a contract?
This article is published in good faith. ‘Legal Aware’ is not responsible for the truth or accuracy of this information in the English jurisdiction, but is to the best of his knowledge a substantially correct account of the law at present. It does not constitute professional advice, for which the advice of a practising barrister or solicitor should be sought.
Meaning, and basic elements of a contract
Save for lawyers, only a handful of people perfectly understand what makes an agreement a contract; thus, making it legally binding and enforceable in a court. This article is intended to explain the fundamental principles better.
A contract is fundamentally an agreement between two or more parties, intended to create legal relations, which the law acknowledges as legally binding and will enforce in the event of a breach.
We live in a society where we must interact and in our day-to-day interactions we cannot help but enter into agreements. However, even though contract law evolved to regulate this aspect of human endeavour, thereby ensuring that parties to a contract fulfill their promises, and contractual obligations, this arm of the law will not concern itself with mere agreements, meaning agreements that do not have a binding nature must not be fulfilled. In the event of a breach of such agreements the law will not enforce it.
For example, a court will not enforce a promise made by a man to his son to buy him a car if he learns to cook in the event he does not fulfill his promise. Once again, the law does not recognize promises and agreements in which the parties did not intend to create legal relations. Furthermore, for a contract to be legally enforceable it must include the following: consent of the contracting parties, consideration, parties capable of contracting, and a legal object.
Consent of the contracting parties: The existence of this element is a prerequisite for a valid contract, meaning for a contract to actually exist, consent must be sought and obtained. Both parties to the contract must communicate to each other unambiguously, the nature of the contract, the terms, the subject matter, and everything else that is relevant to the contract. This is usually referred to as a “meeting of the minds”. There has to be an offer by one of the parties (referred to as the offeror) and an acceptance by the other party (referred to as the offeree). A counter offer does not signify acceptance.
For instance, if an offeror proposes to sell his car for a certain price and the offeree counter-offers, this would signify rejection of the initial offer, and should the offeror sell his car to a different person at a different price, the offeree does not possess the right to enforce the initial offer as no contract was made.
Any consent that is obtained through fraud, duress, misrepresentation, undue influence, mistake is not out of freewill, thus, voidable. Apparently, if I sign a contract because I was deceived, I never consented to it in the first place, therefore, I can rescind it. A lot has been written extensively on this. Sometimes, cases regarding this are usually not that straight forward, but do not be dismayed, it is the role of the courts to interpret each specific or particular case. It is advisable to always contact a lawyer before you enter into a contract.
Consideration: This is equally a prerequisite for all valid contracts. This is the price for which the offer is bought. For instance, in a “buyer” and “seller” situation; the buyer receives the goods and the seller receives payment. All parties to a contract must make gains. If Mr. A sues Mr. B for breach of contract without proof that he had furnished consideration (proof that Mr. B had gained something), he will not succeed, because Mr. B has not received any consideration. Sometimes, cases bothering on this issue are always not that open-and-shut. It is usually the role of the court to decide.
Parties capable of contracting: The law prohibits minors, people of unsound mind and drunken person, illiterates from contracting. The contract must identify the parties, first by their names. And sometimes, titles like “Buyer” and “Seller” could be used to further describe the contracting parties. Copious materials that extensively explain this subject, have been documented.
Legal Object: The object or subject matter of a contract must be legal. A contract for the sale of stolen vehicles will not be enforced by the court should there be a breach.
It is important to know that whether your contract is a written or an oral contract, it must include the elements stated above for it to be legally binding and enforceable. Thus, an oral contract can be enforceable if it meets these requirements. However, the validity of certain contracts is hinged on the fact that they be in writing; in such cases they must documented to be legally binding. However, you will be well advised to always document your contracts. It is advisable to always insist that the contract is in writing for evidential basis.
A written contract always serves as a proof that a contract exists in the event of a breach. Always seek the advice of a lawyer before you append your signature to contract papers regardless of how simple the contract is, or how small the contract amount is.
(c) Aniebiet Ubon 2013.
The copyright of the text of this article is owned by the author Aniebiet Ubon. The content of this article, in whole or in part, may not be copied, reproduced, republished, downloaded, posted, broadcast or transmitted in any way without first the explicit permission of the owner and author.
Aniebiet D. Ubon LL.B (Hons), BL (in view) is an independent writer and researcher in the field of law, with special interests in contract law, international law and human rights. He also writes about issues regarding world peace, Education, Politics, Human rights and societal development; He is also a Radio/TV commentator and analyst legal, education, political and societal development.
Ubon is the Founder of the Qualitative Universal Education and Legal Literacy Initiative (QUELL), an movement for young citizens campaigning for the right to free, compulsory primary education for all; the development of secondary and tertiary education available and accessible to all; and the improvement of the quality of our educational system. QUELL also aspires to promote legal awareness.
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aniebiet11
Labour has become the Samsung to the Conservatives’ Apple (or vice versa)
You don’t especially need a ‘focus group’ to tell you as many different views as you have participants. “Big data”, whilst flavour of the month, is not necessarily ‘best’. A recurrent theme that Labour regular voters find themselves returning to is the question of why bother voting Labour, when they simply seem to be a “Tory Lite”.
A member of any political party is worth his or her own weight in gold. Patrick O’Flynn, Chief Political Correspondent for the “Daily Express”, recently nailed his colours in the UKIP mast. In his recent speech to party members, O’Flynn’s love of his Party was obvious. A particularly effective line in his speech, which was more than a pithy soundbite, was his remark, “We are not a party of Little England – we are a party of Great Britain.” This in marketing terms known as ‘strategic positioning’, when you think about what your product is offering that is so distinct from other people on the market.
And that’s as far as I wish to push the ‘lessons from marketing’ narrative. Many grassroots members of Labour are totally exasperated about the ‘new lick of paint’ approach to politics, perhaps embodied by Mandelson’s rebrand of “New Labour” or Cameron’s reference to Ronseal. The practical problem that Ed Miliband faces, nonetheless, is that his ‘crisis of confidence’ could be a problem fundamentally with the song (Labour party policy) or the singer (him). As for the singer, attention has been given to his onstage demeanour and singing style, as this might seem like a worthy train of enquiry. The wait for policy details has been exasperating. One suspects there might be less criticism of the singer if the song were better defined. For example, the method of delivery of low-paid workers from Europe undercutting domestic English workers might have been more successful if Miliband had a song with clearly defined lyrics concerning a living wage in the first place.
When you ask people ‘what the perceived problem is for which the solution is the Conservative Party’, some people churlishly say ‘The Labour Party’. This is not as trivial as it first seems, as the idea of bin liners not being evacuated from the streets of our cities is deeply entrenched in the minds of some voters above a certain age. Some voters have genuine concerns about the Unions, and the relationship of the Labour Party with the Unions. Labour is in a position of being damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. It can have wish to have a dialogue with the voters on hedge funds leading English NHS privatisation behind closed doors, but will find itself ever-frustrated if the media refuse to cover the issue at all.
It could be that Labour has simply lost a sense of its values. The argument that Labour lost the plot, and changed from a socialist party to a social democratic party, is often instantaneously rebutted by the argument that ‘But Tony Blair was the best election-winning machine which Labour ever had.” To which point, many invariably stipulate that Labour began to lose its core support as early as 2002/3, long before Labour finally relinquished office in 2010.
This perceived lack of clarity is linked to Ed Miliband’s performance as a leader. Miliband is quite good doing ‘reactive’, but Miliband often seems at his best when responding to a crisis, whether this is phone hacking or horse meat. The UK does seem to have been a perpetual state of crisis since the General Election of 2010, but Miliband does impressively appear to have ‘called the right shots’. This does not make up for a lack of policy, or ‘vision’. The usual argument that ‘we are two years away from the election’ merely confirms the idea that Labour is in no particularly hurry to outline a clear vision of settled values and principles on which it can progress. It instead confirms a notion of Labour making policy ‘on the hoof’, whether this is, for example, a ‘response’ to a ‘buy to let’ housing policy or a ‘response’ of vans which are allegedly racist.
There is possibly no single more significant policy plank than the UK economy over which there is genuine concern as to whether Labour is following or leading. It is possible that the economy is making a feeble recovery, over two years after it was also feebly recovering in 2010. It is possible that this new recovery is being fuelled by a temporary housing boom in London. There are many events which can be identified as to why the UK economy has been given a turboboost in the opposite direction by the Coalition. Ed Balls’ policy is perceived as ‘cutting not as deep, and not as fast’, and yet Balls seems fully signed up to a path of austerity. Balls seems as if he wishes to ‘have his cake and eat it’, criticising the Coalition’s economic policy while simultaneously supporting it.
If the economy does go into a sustained recovery, it is possible that the Conservatives will receive a ‘bounce’ for being more trusted on the economy. Voting data do actually provide that both the Conservatives and Labour Party are equally mistrusted on the economy. Labour seems to have been wishing to act ‘butch’ on the economy, hoping that voters will ‘learn to love’ Labour on the economy. This doesn’t add up. The Labour Party, in the style of an overcomplicated Oxford tutorial or Cambridge supervision, have failed overwhelmingly unconvincingly to establish a need for a £860 billion bailout. This failure means that the Conservatives still have some mileage with the fraudulent message, “Would you return the keys to the people who crashed the car?”, blaming the State for the global financial crash not the bankers in the City.
Labour’s problems are further compounded in that it doesn’t seem to offer anything much distinctive. Labour has become the Samsung to the Conservatives’ Apple (or vice versa). Labour supports PFI and Nicholson’s “efficiency savings”. The Conservatives do. Labour appears to support generally free schools or Academies, partly depending on what day it is. The Conservatives do. Labour seems to support acting ‘tough’ on illegal immigrants. The Conservatives do. Labour seems up for ‘modernising’ public services, and privatising what it can from them. The Conservatives do.
The truth is that politics, like the market which it has tried to copy, has become alarmingly homogenised. There is an illusion of choice, but there is a cigarette paper now currently between the main English political parties. When will Labour reverse “the Bedroom Tax”? And so it goes on. The frustration with Ed Miliband is as contrived as is the frustration with David Cameron. It’s a general malaise about the political process, though people generally are very articulate and passionate about many societal issues conversely. Labour’s approach appears to be to ‘play safe’ so that people think it’s ‘safe’ to vote Labour, rather than offering anything exciting or distinctive. If it pursues this strategy, it is more likely to find itself in ‘hung parliament’ territory rather than having a large working majority. But Tony Blair had a huge majority in 2007, and his legacy is still being fiercely debated.
All universities are needed for the public good
I still remember my time at Cambridge with fondness. I am a Scholar of my College there, as I was awarded the second highest First in the whole University in finals (“Part II”) in 1996. I think it’s very hard to be overtly or covertly disloyal to any educational establishment you have attended, unless you truly had a terrible time. I remember being supervised by some outstanding academics, a few even Nobel prize winners. It’s crazy to think I once sat next to César Milstein, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology for physiology and medicine, for his invention of monoclonal antibody technology which has subsequently produced massive benefit and outcomes for the medical profession as regards therapeutic value. I also remember sitting next to the Head of Interpol at a conference on economic crime, as we raised a ‘Floreat’ toast to the Queen.
Cambridge then, in the mid 1990s, had too its fair share of appalling lecturers. Paid by one of the ‘best’ Universities globally, some University Teaching Officers were completely incapable of giving a one-hour lecture. At worst, I had almost post-traumatic stress disordered memories of paper aeroplanes and chicken noises during an explanation by a Professorial fellow at Caius College on ‘Starling’s Law of the Heart’. Lectures might over-run, there might be totally illegible acetates, or the sound of delivery was just too awful for words. Ultimately, it did not as such matter, as Cambridge tries hard to allow people to leave with at least a II.1, thought of (and assumed possibly unfairly) by many employers as a badge of merit. At Cambridge, I worked out before my undergraduate time was up that there was a schism between what was lectured and what was subsequently examined. I stayed on at Cambridge to do my Ph.D., where I published on a seminal finding in behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, which has since been replicated many times over. It is even in the current Oxford Textbook of Medicine.
After my health took a turn for the worst, I ‘started again’ in a private learning establishment, known as ‘BPP Law School’ at Waterloo, London. I undertook to do the Graduate Diploma of Law, which is the qualification regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to provide academic competence in the foundation subjects of the English law. BPP Law School’s learning officer, Fiona Dymond, was always at the end of the phone when my late father used to ring her up when he was worried that I was unconscious for yet another day at the Royal Free ITU due to bacterial meningitis. In negotiation with BPP Law School, I changed to the part-time weekend distance learning mode in due course. My late father used to wheel me to lectures in the wheelchair which I used for mobility between 2006-2008.
I received my Graduate Diploma of Law from BPP Law School in March 2009. The graduation ceremony was held at the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn. This was an extremely proud evening for my mother, late father, and me. After that, I then successfully was awarded a Commendation in my Master of Law from the College of Law in December 2010. That course was a course which I did entirely through distance learning, but it was a difficult time for me as I was newly-disabled and starting my recovery from a common mental illness, alcoholism. The pastoral support I received from BPP Law School, which became BPP University this week, and the College of Law, which became the University of Law, was second to none.
My Master of Law in international commercial law, which I did at the College or University of Law, was very tightly focused on international practitioner skills. I was then kindly given permission by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to study the equally “practice facing” Legal Practice Course, after carefully discussing with them the personal troubles I had experienced with alcoholism. In the meantime, I had enrolled to do a Master of Business Administration at BPP Business School, which I completed in early 2011. I don’t regret learning about behaviours, skills and knowledge from the business and legal world for a moment, whatever I decide to do in the future. Giving clear advice (and I probably know how to argue convincingly both sides of any argument now thanks to any legal training) is a totally different skill to evaluating evidence critically for an hour for your finals at Cambridge.
Enough about me, me, me. Enough’s enough. I just wanted to say that if I had my time again and I wished to be a barrister or solicitor I would go to a private university such as BPP or the University of Law. This is because the course materials have clearly been refined to teach the behaviours, skills and knowledge needed to practise the law. I also think the link between the assessments and course is much clearer, but this could be an artifact of the course being so carefully regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. I am clearly not in any hurry, as I am a person who lives ‘just for today’. However, BPP trains up the vast majority of accountants in England, and successfully trained many of those who ultimately go onto be called to the Bar or admitted onto the Roll of Solicitors. I am, though, a card-carrying academic, and wouldn’t swop what I know now for anything.
I have written this fairly short article, as I am very loyal to three Universities where I have been educated, Cambridge University, BPP University and the University of Law. I think the purpose of the law is exactly as Prof Michael Sandel describes it for the US jurisdiction in his seminal lectures on justice at Harvard. I think a superficial purpose of law is for a correcting mechanism for misdemeanours in all spheres of life. A second more absorbing purpose of the law is to enable the ‘public good’. Any person who is truly inclusive in philosophy, and I am a card-carrying socialist, will believe in the need to find value in all agents of society. If there is intense competition for places, as will be evidenced in England this thursday by UCAS in ‘clearing’, with people aged 18 wishing to pursue a University education for the next few years, we should as a society be welcoming the different educations which they all have to offer. No learning institution is wishing to undermine anyone else, so any feeling of suspicion is totally unmerited. Having now completed 8 degrees and my Legal Practice Course, at the age of 39, I wish everyone going up to University this Autumn the very best of luck. Private universities, like public universities, have a critical rôle to play for this public good. What you learn in life, though, will be probably just as valuable, if not more!