Leading article: Royal relief

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Inherently outdated as the honours system might be, there is something about the latest Queen's list of birthday gongs which rather effectively captures the national zeitgeist.

There is an OBE for the physicist, Brian Cox, who also happened to play in the band responsible for the song "Things Can Only Get Better": a clever way to signal support for the sciences while also bringing the curtain down on the New Labour era.

Catherine Zeta Jones gets a CBE, presumably a nod to her magnificent role in bringing America and Britain closer together and perhaps a hint that there might be a big role for her in the Gulf of Mexico. A Northern Irish farmer called James Fitchie gets a gong for services to ploughing – maybe a royal reminder for our banking industry to stick to the straight and narrow in future. Meanwhile, Fred Dinenage is to collect an MBE, prompting the veteran broadcaster to declare: "I'm being honoured for enjoying myself". And with those words we have a timely antidote to an era of austerity. Keep it up, Your Majesty!

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