It has been a fascinating few days. Journalists on almost all ‘papers have been behaving like teenagers who have just fallen in love for the first time. But I don’t think it was sex. Many of the besotted scribes are heterosexual men who found themselves having ludicrous crushes on another man. And hardened editors, thought to be immune to this sort of nonsense, have been going weak at the knees whenever that wonderful name has been mentioned. Continue reading
This afternoon, just after the one o’clock news on Radio 4 (the Home Service as was), there was a programme about bias on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky Television. Mostly, and quite rightly, since we all have to fund the BBC on pain of being sent to prison, it was about the BBC. I regret my mind was elsewhere when the programme started (we do, after all, celebrate the Holy Trinity today). But something said by someone caught my attention after a few minutes and I began to concentrate.
Once I realised what the programme was about my immediate assumption was that it was just going to be the BBC denying the obvious (that it is generally biased in favour of the centre-left). But that was unfair of me. The presenter was extraordinarily open minded and quite prepared to accept that many of his colleagues were not. Indeed, as the discussion continued, it became apparent that the existence of the bias was not being seriously disputed. But the point was made, and it is one with which I entirely agree, that the bias is just as much a problem for Mr Corbyn’s hard left as it is for moderate Conservatives. BBC employees, even those who perform on the Today programme, find it just as difficult to accept that Momentum is a good thing as they find it to accept that a mainstream Conservative is not appallingly evil. The exceptionally silly defence frequently put forward by the BBC, that it can’t be biased because both Tories and hard left Labour complain in equal measures, was not being advanced in the programme. It was the first time I had heard any BBC employee accepting the obvious, that it was possible to be biased in favour of the centre-left and to be opposed by both the hard left and the right. Continue reading
I suppose I really ought to say something about this leadership election. I am reluctant to do so because I think it likely that I will annoy as many of my readers as I please. Those of them, for instance, who are on the Left in politics, who read the Guardian and the Daily Mail (in its new manifestation) and who think Jeremy Corbyn is rather a good egg, will be furious with me if I don’t come down in favour of Rory Stewart. My remainer Conservative friends will be incandescent with rage if I don’t go for Jeremy Hunt or Matt Hancock. Those of my friends who spend half their lives stoned will be completely bemused if my vote doesn’t go to my actual friend, Michael Gove. Oh well, I will just have to annoy you all and hope, in time, that you will forgive me. Continue reading
BORIS THE OLD LAG
Oh how I wish that it had been some demented campaigner for the remain side who had been summonsed to court for misconduct in public office. That is not because I want any of those sad people to be clapped in irons. On the contrary, I favour the old approach, which was that the voters, not the courts, decided which side should win public votes. No, my regret that it is not some twit like Lord Adonis who is being prosecuted is brought about by my very strong feeling that this latest nonsense must be stamped out. Some of my dimmer readers (is that an oxymoron?) may, when they read this piece, run away with the idea that I only object to the courts replacing the electorate because the victim, Mr Johnson, is on the same side as I am in the Brexit debate. But that is totally false. If Adonis or Osborne had been hauled off to the Old Bailey for telling all those lies (and there were masses of them) during the referendum campaign, I would have been the first to come to their defence. Obviously, I wouldn’t have said they were right to lie through their teeth. But I would have been horrified at the suggestion that the judiciary rather than the electorate should judge them. Continue reading
For many months I have had this niggling feeling at the back of my mind that I should try to work out what on earth Lord Adonis meant by his strange assertion that those of us (17.4M of us) who voted to leave the EU were just like those who supported the appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s.
First, I must try to explain Lord Adonis. He is a life peer (one of Blair’s many creations). He has tried several political parties (Social Democrats, then Liberal Democrats and finally Labour). He is not stupid. He has a very respectable degree in history (a first) from Oxford. He was a minister under Blair. Of course, he has never been elected to any political office, but that should not be held against him: he is not a man of the people and I don’t think he has even claimed to be such a vulgar thing. But he has one enormous problem: he is one of the many supporters of our membership of the EU who has been driven mad by the result of the 2016 referendum. Continue reading
For a great many years, long before Brexit, some on the left in politics have merrily labelled those on the right (I am not talking about the far right) as “Nazis” or “fascists”. Indeed, go back a few decades and you will find examples of men who risked their lives in the fight against Nazi Germany being described as fascists because, for instance, they objected to industries being nationalised or thought tax rates should not be astronomically high.
More recently, this childish practice has spread to people of all or any political persuasion. So, for instance, those who do not admire Anna Soubry’s passionate adoration of liberally minded Brussels bureaucrats have taken to calling her a Nazi and the Speaker of the House of Commons, this very day, has assured us that Ms Soubry’s infantile critics are themselves fascists. Continue reading
GOVERNMENT FOUND TO BE IN CONTEMPT OF PARLIAMENT FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.
So screeched all the newspaper headlines earlier this week. The innocent reader will have conjured up pictures of the Lord Chief Justice of England, the President of the Supreme Court, the Master of the Rolls, the President of the Family Division and the Chancellor of the High Court sitting together and solemnly declaring the government to have been in contempt of Parliament.
In fact, nothing like that happened. Instead, a whole lot of politicians, acting entirely from political, not judicial, motives (though endlessly and pompously asserting that they were the “High Court of Parliament”) decided to kick the government where it hurts and dress the assault up as a judicial and not a political act. Continue reading
What was it about the island of Sark that first attracted me? Was it the wonderful unspoilt scenery, the total absence of bossy signs telling us how dangerous it was to climb down cliffs to the sea, the gorgeous wild flowers, the tastiest lobsters in Western Europe? Or was it the feudal constitution? Continue reading
PC Keith Palmer, who was a hero, was murdered by a terrorist in New Palace Yard, part of the Houses of Parliament. By chance, the acting Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, Sir Craig Mackey, was in a car in New Palace Yard with two other police officers. They had been to a meeting with a Home Office minister and were about to leave for Scotland Yard. Yesterday, in his evidence to the Inquest inquiring into the deaths of the terrorist’s victims, Sir Craig explained what he saw and did.
His evidence can be summarised briefly. He saw the terrorist threatening PC Palmer with a knife. He saw the knife being raised. He thought of getting out of his car and trying to intervene. But he was not wearing any protective clothing (he was in shirt sleeves), he had no radio and no other equipment. Furthermore, his two colleagues were traumatised by the scene. It looked to him as though anyone trying to intervene to save PC Palmer would be putting himself at risk of serious injury or even death. Taking account of all those factors, he decided the sensible course would be to stay in the car, lock the doors and escape as soon as possible. Continue reading
It’s a bit cheeky of me, having moaned more than once about all the posts on Facebook devoted to the hearings into the suitability of a man for appointment as a USA Supreme Court Judge, to write a piece of my own about political appointments of judges.
I must make it clear immediately that I will be saying nothing about Mr Kavanaugh and his alleged behaviour towards girls when he was a schoolboy. He may or may not be Supreme Court Judge material (I suspect considerations other than adolescent misbehaviour may be more important). It is not for an Englishman to judge. The Americans have adopted this system of having politicians as judges of their highest court. We, in Britain, have no right to tell them they are wrong.
But we certainly have the right to fear that we may end up following the American example.
Our highest court used to be the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords. Actually, technically, it was the House itself (the law lords on the committee reported to the whole House). Tony Blair then suddenly heard about something called the doctrine of the separation of powers and, horrified to discover that the judiciary and legislature had combined, he abolished the judicial functions of the Lords and, imitating America, he created our very own Supreme Court.
Some of the judges approved of this frightfully modern idea. A few of them, I fear, did think that, one day, they could become more important than Parliament, just as the American Supreme Court is more important than the Senate, Congress and the President. I think there were only a few who thought like that. Most just thought it sounded lovely and modern, was probably admired by the intelligentsia of Islington and was therefore a good thing (top judges are very clever but they also suffer from human vanities just like the rest of us), But others were worried. Indeed, Lord Neuberger, who later became President of the new court, at first refused to join it because of his disapproval of it.
Is there a real risk that Parliamentary sovereignty (assuming we recover it from the EU) could be passed to a few unelected judges in our Supreme Court? Could the time come when we have to have sordid select committee hearings into the suitability of men and women to sit in the UK Supreme Court?
There is not, I think, an imminent danger. It is true that a minority (a small one) of the Supreme Court judges has started, very tentatively, laying the foundations for a declaration, quite a way in the future, that the court can overrule Parliament. At the moment, the movement is what one could call a left wing one. It is headed by the President of the Court, Lady Hale. She has said that she can imagine circumstances in which the Supreme Court could overturn an Act of Parliament repealing the Human Rights Act. But we should remember that her judicial brethren did manage to dissuade her from following her extra-judicial assertion that the court could prevent Parliament from approving our withdrawal from the EU. Parliament will not be repealing the Human Rights Act any time soon. But, if, after an election, it does so, my guess would be that Lady Hale’s colleagues (who are very bright) would succeed in explaining to her that her desire for the Supreme Court to usurp the powers of Parliament is one which she should stifle.
Nevertheless, I have no doubt that we should be alert to the danger of the Supreme Court, one day, claiming to be sovereign and superior to Parliament. Some, of course, will say it is not a danger. Clever North London judges, they will say, are much more reliable as law makers than MPs elected by misguided and uneducated working class voters. Our laws will be much more civilised if they have to be approved by the likes of Lady Hale before they can be enforced.
But such thoughts are very foolish. The idea that we will all just accept that this new sovereign Supreme Court should for ever be populated by Blairite judges is barmy. Don’t forget that the present fuss across the pond arose from a Republican President seeking to appoint a Republican judge. Yes, the same sort of nonsense goes on when Democrat presidents seek to appoint Democrat judges. The point is that, once a Supreme Court becomes political, only men and women thought to be supporters of the government will be nominated. And then you will get, in Westminster, exactly the sort of disagreeable hearings which have been boring us from Washington for so long.
We are fortunate to have some of the best judges in the world. We don’t inquire what their politics are, because we know the answer would be irrelevant. Sometimes a few people accuse the judges of all being awful lefty liberals and a few others say they are dreadful Tory stooges. But most of us know that almost all of them apply the law without allowing their own political opinions to play any part in their judgments. It would be very odd if there were no exceptions to that. There are some. But our appeals system usually puts things right. It would be truly awful if the highest court of all became wholly political.
Lady Hale must be gently and politely restrained from trying to turn our top judges into politicians, otherwise she will find an English Kavanaugh joining her on the bench.