Dear Mr Alder

Connoisseurs of this website and readers of Medicines out of Control? (p. 70) will appreciate the significance of the appointment of Roy Alder as a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire). This news was announced on the same day as the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and in my mind threatened to eclipse it.

Mr Alder occupies a rather special place in my mind, indeed several. I have even wondered if these feelings of ambiguity might be complicated by variant Stockholm Syndrome – the label that describes the perverse attachment a captive may feel for the source of his/her torment. If so, it would be a very variant strain: with Mr Alder, one never quite knows who’s playing Fletcher or not – but that is for connoisseurs of Porridge.

He and I have barely met and have never chewed the fat but, in close correspondence over seven years, indeed we stirred some porridge. And I never actually suffered at his hand, such was his synthesis of the geniality of Mr Barraclough with the zeal of Mr Mackay. Debarments aside, his commitment, craftsmanship and consistency have always been a comfort to me.

It should at least be clear that my feelings about Roy Alder CBE are in no way tinged with reflected glory. Far be it from me to land on him some kiss of death, but deep down I suspect his colleagues owe him far more than they realise. He has done a thoroughly honourable job, even when covering their tracks. A true defender of the face.

As for the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (hardly a momentous event: see correspondence), I’ve decided that my first request should be for the citation and all other disclosable information relating to the knighthood awarded to Professor Sir Alastair Breckenridge, this time last year. How much information actually is available about the basis of awards for public service? We shall see.

7 January 2005



Knighthoods are awarded for: "Pre-eminent contribution in any field, usually, but not exclusively, at national level, or in a capacity which will be recognised by peer groups as inspirational and significant nationally, and which demonstrates sustained commitment and/or public service."

The CBE is awarded for "a prominent national role of a lesser degree, or a conspicuous leading role in regional affairs or the public service; or making a highly distinguished, innovative contribution to his or her area of activity."