Danny Alexander *Telegraphed*… Next please…..!

It seems that Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, does have practical experienmce after all…. of Capital Gains Tax and is, therefore, ideally suited to overseeing plans to increase CGT for mere mortals.

Talk about Japanese footballers kicking balls into their own goal!

Telegraph article…

The claims appear to undermine repeated claims by Mr Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, that no Lib Dem MP profited from the expenses system.

In the first televised leaders’ debate, Mr Clegg said: “There are MPs who flipped one property to the next, buying property, paid by you, the taxpayer, and then they would do the properties up, paid for by you, and pocket the difference in personal profit.’’

Who’s next?  Clegg?  Nothing would surprise me.

***

Wrapping Up the Danny Alexander Expenses Story

Postcard From The Staterooms: Econocomical edition

Dear Reader,

You will have heard that David Laws reported himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner and resigned yesterday as chief secretary to the Treasury.  While he accepts that he broke the rules, his sin is rather less serious than some who fiddled voraciously as they sacked John Lewis like Romans at an orgy. Some are still in the House, they say, and they haven’t resigned.  The Telegraph will, no doubt, remind us soon enough.

For my part, given that we need the Coalition to work – whatever political dogma we believe in (and Labour really do need a bit of ‘Time Out’ to get a bit of thinking done – it is rather tragic that the country has lost a fine mind and, more importantly, one with significant experience of banking, economics and how markets work.  George Osborne, as yet, does not have this expertise.   He may well prove to be good – and leaving aside parody, briefly – but not for too long, I promise, he is reported to have the brains to pick experience and knowledge up.

It is a bit baffling (but understandable in Coalition terms and binding the Lib-Dems into taking the pain) that Laws has been replaced by a young man with little experience of money, economics, finance, fiscal policy and markets – he did do a PPE at Oxford, but so what..? That is just one up from A level and no match for experience and instinct.  A commenter on my last serious blog post suggested that we get a petition going to have laws re-instated.  I think it would be very good for the country to accept that the expenses thing has happened, we have gorged on it, stop letting The Telegraph hold people and the country to ransom with their constant drip feeding (to whose agenda?)  let the country get on and bring Laws back into government quickly.  I am ever the pragmatist.  The MPs have eaten their porridge, even if, some say, more should have done porridge.  We need to get a grip on the economy and the country and that requires a bit of talent.  Here endeth the ‘lesson’.

I wasn’t going to watch Eurovision last night, but the tweets were so good that I had to watch and join in.  I made a number of observations while in a fairly advanced state of grace brought on by Rioja…

I was rather hoping that Greece won.  I’d have paid good money to see Greece asking Germany for the money to host Eurovision next year.  But one cannot have everything one wants, can one?

Humphrey Cushion ran an amazing Eurovision avatar changing commentary on twitter… she is worth following on twitter – very amusing, if you don’t already follow her. Mea culpa for failing to mention in the first edition of this post.  Honour is restored – quite rightly.  I hold her responsible for getting me into Eurovision again last night!

I don’t follow football, but I was surprised to see that England beat Japan today simply because two Japanese footballers decided to kick the ball into their own goal. perhaps these are good ‘omens’ for a few weeks time?  I do know that the white flags have started to appear on cars again.  I have a pirate flag mounted on my glasses.  Why shouldn’t people have white flags on their cars and vans?  Good effort!  The image to the left is ‘Sexy Soccer’..apparently.  Frankly… of greater appeal to me than the real game… but there we are.  That I don’t give a toss about football doesn’t make me a pariah…..

I wasn’t going to watch Eurovision last night but did…so anything is possible.  I did watch England win the World Cup two hundred years ago.  I watched it with my Mother.  I was 12.  I drank cider.  My mother, then a non-drinker, was completely unaware that Somerset cider had alcohol in it.  I think she suspected something was up when I suddenly leapt to my feet, tore my shirt off, shouted “WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS” and  ran into the street shouting nonsense…

Briefly on Tory Education Policy…

Being interested in education, at least at the tertiatry or university and professional level, I have an open mind on Tory policy.  I was lucky enough, because my parents worked abroad, to go to a very good public school in Scotland.  Had my parents not been abroad, I would have been lucky enough to go to a very good state school in Scotland – but I had to board.  Scotland does education well.  This is not being a “Braveheart’.  It just happens to be true.   I would like to see everyone get the benefit of good schooling – for that lays the foundation for a happy and possibly, if you are that way inclined, a successful life in money terms.  The News of The World, taking a break from outing Duchesses and droning on about tits and footballers (Sometimes the tits are footballers and the footballers have tits), had an excellent piece on the founder of CarPhone Warehouse.

The founder of The Carphone Warehouse (David Ross decided to sponsor a school in his home town of Grimsby.), along with his new headteacher Nicholas O’Sullivan – a former Dominican friar – took the comprehensive over and freed it from council control.  Do, please, read it – it is quite inspiring and whether others will follow this route (and I hope they will) this was a great story.

On that uplifting note, I am orf to Battersea Square for a glass of vino in the evening sun.  I may return sooner rather than later

Best, as always

Charon

We want LAWS!! not Law….


I write this week from a dark place, a place where the mob riots, pitchforks and flaming torches ready… a place where only the head of David Laws will assuage some.   The Telegraph outed David Laws – firstly as gay, in effect, and secondly for an expenses problem in connection with £40,000 worth of expenses paid to his partner.  This has been prohibited since 2006.  David Laws has apologised, given a full and detailed explanation and has offered to pay it back.

While I amused myself, over refreshed on twitter last night by making remarks about Ali Baba and the 40,0000 thieves…and noted that I would soon be ‘orf for 40,000 winks’, I woke this morning sober, refreshed as opposed to over refreshed and, after a coffee and a few Marlboros, thought about the issue.

Firstly, in the absence of any further revelations – some think that there is more to come – David Laws’ explanation seems reasonably credible to me.  The Law is a bit woolly in terms of the definition of ‘partner’ and Laws maintains …

“At no point did I consider myself to be in breach of the rules which in 2009 defined partner as ‘one of a couple… who although not married to each other or civil partners are living together and treat each other as spouses’.

“Although we were living together we did not treat each other as spouses – for example we do not share bank accounts and indeed have separate social lives.

“However, I now accept that this was open to interpretation and will immediately pay back the costs of the rent and other housing costs I claimed from the time the rules changed until August 2009.” (BBC)

I have absolutely no problem with David Laws being gay or, rather more importantly, with his wish to keep private matters private.  Why should he have disclosed his sexuality?   It is no-one’s business but his own.  I can understand, because there is still a group of people in politics who are ‘gay intolerant’, that Mr Laws may wished to have kept his sexuality secret and this is more than likely to have accounted for his interpretation of the rules in terms of the 2006 expenses revisions.

I do not think he should resign.  He has offered to return the money, given the interpretation of the rules alternative to his own, and he has reported himself to the watchdog.   I understand that had Laws claimed for his own rent or purchased a flat the cost to the taxpayer would have been even higher.  The fact that he is a millionaire is irrelevant.  He has already given up salary and compensation far in excess of anything a British government can afford to pay ministers.  How many of us give up our freedom to earn or wish to serve our country by being an MP.  I don’t.  I’ll do what I can, as most will, in other ways.  Being an MP is pretty heavy on the soul, I would have thought.? Hopefully, most MPs will enjoy the parody, the knock about – but how many of us could handle a campaign of vilification in the press?  Criticise and vilify when merited.  Is it really merited on the FACTS here? On the facts as reported so far – I don’t think so. I did not vote for the Tories or the Lib-Dems, nor, obviously, a coalition.  On purely practical grounds it would be unfortunate if Cameron or Clegg were to take the opportunity to be ‘tough’ by sacking Laws.  It would be unfortunate to lose a man widely regarded as clever, thoughtful and honest –  doing a job which the Coalition government says needs to be done.  It would be unfortunate if the government, not exactly over blessed with intellectual and economic talent, had to find a replacement.  I think that Mr Laws should tough it out.  The mob and the press will just have to wait for their first bloodied corpse.  Unless, of course, there is more to this than has been disclosed and meets the eye.

And so.. to the House of Lords.

Long overdue for reform – although I would go further than reform and welcome complete abolition , replacing a second chamber with elected ‘senators’ who will bring experience and expertise to scrutinise the work of The Commons.  We have a long and not always honourable history.  We do pomp and circumstance better than any in the world  and it is important to feel British.  Unfortunately, some of us feel that all the geegaws and baubles, The Lord, The Sirs, The Rt hons this and The Rt Hon that are all a bit undemocratic, all a bit old fashioned for a modern democracy and…frankly…all a bit f**king daft.

I have no interest in titles. If a grown man wants to call himself Lord Fuckerlugs of Spalding On Seaside, that is just fine by me.    Thankfully, there are some wonderful people who do great work with no thought of reward or  of getting a daft ermine gown and a ludicrous medieval title.  Some even decline.  Lord Prescott told us all solemnly some time ago that he had no interest in the Lords and would not accept a peerage.  He has and got his yeterday.  Again.. this is fine by me.  He will just have to accept the ridicule which goes along with it.

The issue isn’t about titles.  It is about substance.  How are we going to fit in 800+ peers, with more to come?  I thought Cameron said Big Society, not Big Government?  We seem to have more has beens and worthies than ever running the country. The Tories say they have to create more peers to outnumber Labour peers?  What happens when they lose the next election and Labour has to create even more.  At this rate, they’ll be holding their sessions at Wembley. The country will be crawling with ‘vermin in ermine’!..

It really doesn’t matter to me at the end of the day that some British people revel in all this nonsense – it is harmless.  What is not harmless is unelected peers governing us.  This has, surely, to come to an end?  We’ll see how many has beens and worthies want to be ‘senators’ and do good work, without titles.  I suspect, not quite so many. We shall see in time.

All the best… toodle pip

Have a good Bank holiday.  I’ll be back tomorrow with my weekly Postcard… but I must see a man about a Dukedom… Fergie says she managed to get me an introduction.   Must rush… Can’t keep the Palace waiting, can one!

Baron Charon of Rioja-on-Sea.

F**kART: *LAPIN*! (2010)

LAPIN!  (2010)
Charon
Acrylics on canvas board

Lapin is a friend – a surrealist, photographer and voracious reader of books. I thought the PopArt style was about right and based it on a pic she took of herself recently.

I still have to tart up the yellow border colour and sharpen up the highlights and a bit of blue – this I will do when the paint dries

Just a few jottings…

I thought I would start the Bank holiday weekend early. It is unlikely that many of my clients, or potential clients,  will wish to be troubled tomorrow by phone, email or at all. I have, however, noticed that on the Friday of a bank holiday weekend people are remarkably industrious.  When, in the past, I have telephoned on such a Friday I have been told “He’s in a meeting”… “He’s still in a meeting”… “Yes.. it is a very long meeting”…”He’s in another meeting” .  The other remarkable feature of Friday Bank holidays is how many people are ‘working from home’ but so industriously  that they cannot take calls or their mobiles don’t work.  I have therefore given up on the working on Fridays before Bank holidays…at least in terms of writing or doing new business.

And so apropos of nothing at all.. my thoughts turn to SurAlanSugar… or Baron Sugar as we must now style him… Lord Sugar,  if you are one of those children on ‘Junior Apprentice’. I’m afraid that I agree with a lot of people on twitterJunior Apprentice is a bit ‘creepy’.  I don’t like it.  I think they are a bit young.  Yes.. Sir Alan was building a multi-million pound business at the age of 14.  I was sweeping chimneys at 7… by 12, too large to get up chimneys, I was sent down t’mines and by 18 I was thinking about putting in a takeover bid for Harrods but Al-Fayed beat me to it.  I made all that up, of course.  I like Alan Sugar.  I admire the fact that he built up a business from scratch and speaks his mind.  I am a bit baffled as to why he revels – or appears to – in all this ‘Sur Alan’ and ‘Lord Sugar’ nonsense.  Harmless enough, I suppose.  I still prefer Keith Richards’ view about titles… on hearing that Mick Jagger had been given a knighthood…. “I’m not going on a fucking stage with someone wearing a fucking coronet and sporting the old ermine..” or perhaps that was apocryphal?   On the other hand.. if one can’t beat ’em… join ’em.  May well be time to start awarding myself some new titles.

I’m amusing myself by growing another absurd tache. I’ve also discovered a facility on my new iMac which allows me to take photographs of myself in sepia, colour, black and white and even X-Ray…. I won’t be inflicting any more pics of myself on you… but here I am in ‘moody’ sepia… retro… or what?

I shall, no doubt,  get bored with it… or when I realise that sitting having a coffee in Battersea Square impersonating King Lear is not one of my ‘great ideas’.

Torture inquiry should leave no stone unturned, says Amnesty

Guardian: Investigation into human rights abuses promised by William Hague needs to be independent and must look at criminal responsibility, says organisation

The coalition government should “leave no stone unturned” in the search for the truth about the UK’s complicity in foreign torture, the head of Amnesty International has said.

An inquiry promised by William Hague, the foreign secretary, needs to be both independent and able to decide whether any individuals should be prosecuted, said Amnesty’s interim secretary general, Claudio Cordone.

I can go along with that.

Lord Lester has published his Libel Bill. I’ve read it.   You can too, if you haven’t already.  The pdf is available here. I’m still thinking about the implications – but it is very interesting so I want to take a bit of time before I comment on it.  Some of the comments I’ve seen on the net are amusing – particularly from lawyers!  Vested interests tend to shape responses… ineluctably.

Lord Steyn: Defamation and Privacy: momentum for substantive and procedural change?

Guardian: Read Lord Steyn’s Boydell lecture on defamation law and privacy in full. This is most interesting and worth a read.   Are their hidden messages in it?  Seems there may well be.

BabyBarista leaves The Times!

Tim Kevan is a good friend of mine – and a fellow blogger.  He has left The Times because of their soon to be implemented decision to hide BabyBarista and all their other content behind a paywall.

This is good news for those of us who enjoy his writing and will, I hope, encourage BabyBarista to branch out into other activities – like drinking, painting, and even a spot of commentary on Law?

The new BabyBarista blog is here.

[The cartoon is by Alex Williams]

If you are a law blogger (or, indeed, a blogger who likes a bit of law – would you be kind enough to add the new URL to your blogroll?  – I am sure Tim will return the compliment!

F**kART: Coalition! (2010)

Coalition! (2010)
Charon
22 x 18 Acrylics on canvas board

Cameron is portrayed as a Captain America pastiche and the deputy prime minister, Clegg, as a spiderman type giving the bird with both fingers. They stand on a sea of choppy yellow water!  The ‘bird’ motif is perhaps ‘inelegant’ – but some of his voters think he did give them the ‘bird’ by getting into bed with Dave.

Law Review: Queen’s Speech and matters of rape.

Parliament opened to great pomp and circumstance yesterday in a ceremony that has remained largely unchanged for decades. The Lord Chancellor, Ken Clarke, put the wig back on but did not back down the stairs.  He chose to turn his back on the Monarch and walk down the stairs sensibly after handing The Queen her speech.  The Queen dutifully unsaid all the things she said last time.

Black Rod was ill, so the Commons were summoned by another man in tights after carrying out the solemn duty of banging on the door slammed in his face.  Dennis Skinner, sometimes called The Beast of Bolsover, lightened proceedings…with an amusing quip, attracting immediate ire on twitter from some Tories who temporarily lost their sense of humour.  I thought the quip was excellent and summed up the “Primacy of the Commons’ nicely.

Clegg, largely invisible during Cameron’s address to the House – obscured from view whenever Dave stood up, did his best to see what was going on by bobbing up and to the viewer’s right.    Comical.   Carl Gardner, of The Head of Legal blog, tweeted that ‘these things aren’t done by accident’ – hinting at some clever Tory planning to hide Clegg from view!.

And so to the serious business of government covered well in all the newspapers. Here is the coverage from The Times.  Enjoy it free while you can.  The Times plans to go behind a ‘paywall’ in June.

And so to Law…

We must see justice done (more on rape and anonymity)

Carl Gardner writes:

It’s of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done. So said Lord Chief Justice Lord Hewart in 1923, quashing a guilty verdict arrived at by magistrates in private with their legal adviser, who had a conflict of interest.

The principle has two aspects. First, the justice system must be visibly free of bias. But second, and more fundamentally, the workings of justice must be seen in the first place. Only if justice is carried out publicly can we know it’s being done fairly. That’s why you can go into your local Crown or Magistrates’ Court any day, if you’re not working, and listen to proceedings. It’s why I think criminal trials should be televised. And it’s why I’m against the government’s surprising new proposal to grant anonymity to defendants in rape cases.

I’m still thinking about my stance.  I think I am probably more inclined to allow anonymity until the moment the prosecution begins in the court. This may allow other women to come forward? There has been a tendency for the identity of suspects to be revealed before trial, which is clearly prejudicial if no charge follows and no publicity is given to that fact.  Mud tends to stick unless corrected with equal publicity.

I am, however, very clear on my stance on the Rape trial of the children.  Ken MacDonald QC, a former DPP, often hits the nail on the head with precision in his analyses and he did so eloquently.  His article in the Times is a ‘must read’ on this issue.   I agree and have nothing to add.

This spectacle has no place in a civilised land

We make fools of ourselves and demons of children by trying small boys for rape

Ken MacDonald QC

Son sues mother for ‘failing to protect him from childhood abuse’

Frances Gibb reports on an interesting issue…

Can we stay humane, even in the hell of war?

Moral lines have been blurred on torture: our leaders should remember how the Allies fought with integrity

The investigation into British complicity in torture will, hopefully, clarify exactly what has been done in our name over the past ten years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This thoughtful article is worth reading.  The present government has, rightly, set its face against condoning the use of torture.  Let us hope that we have not condoned the use of torture, directly or indirectly over the past government’s custody of our country.

Times article by Ben Macintyre

Postcard from the Staterooms

Dear Reader,

I’m a bit late with my postcard this week.  This is largely because I had a most entertaining and enjoyable weekend chatting to great people.  On this day of CUTS announced by George Osborne and his ‘Igor’… David Laws, I thought I would do my bit for our country – see above.

I thought I would devote my postcard to you this week to ranting – randomly – about things which have caught my eye today while sitting in the sun on Battersea Square and World’s End, Chelsea.

Oh… how wonderfully tweet…
The first thing to catch my eye and set the tone for my febrile mind was the news that The Hay Literary Festival is to hold a competition for literary types to come up with guff or otherwise on twitter.  … Oh.. so achingly tweet? The competition is to be judged by?… yes.. you’ve guessed it…. the unofficial ‘King of Twitter”… Stephen Fry… as The Guardian described him. Some might say unofficial pain in the arse of Twitter.  I could not possibly comment for fear that he might leave Twitter again and people will want to hang me. I do, however, enjoy Stephen Fry’s stuff and to be fair… he doesn’t call himself the ‘King of twitter’…. does he?

Things could only go downhill  in terms of my more cynical side after reading that… and they did. I took regular breaks during the course of the day to have a coffee, read the papers and watch the world go…. by sitting first at a cafe where I have breakfast and then moving over to an Italian trattoria on the other side of the square, alternating between the two with each coffee break.  We haven’t had a lot of great weather in the last six months – so I am taking advantage.

Mid-morning I saw an attractive young blonde looking desperately serious in her black spandex running kit with obligatory bouncing blond ponytail poking through the back of a large baseball cap. She was running slowly… more like a jog, but looked ‘terribly serious and self important’ as she did it, as if  to convey to the baffled bystander,  who was probably more interested in her arse joggling away under the spandex than her ‘self inflicted pain and endurance of hardship’,  that only a runner can ‘understand’. I have no interest in the ‘pain’ of runners and cyclists.  If I want to go somewhere, I get on a bus, a motorbike or a tube and don’t look serious about it.


Then we have the hordes of people on a hot day wandering about or walking purposefully carrying bottled water. Why do they do this?  Are they at particular risk of dehydration?  Will they succumb to heat exhaustion as they travel between home and office or home and clothes shop?   I would say, from a limited statistical population, that it was probably a ratio of 8:1 in favour of women.  Stylish men who use grooming products may well carry bottled water about with them.  I didn’t see one ‘blokeish’ bloke carrying bottled water.  I suspect this may be because we rationalise that if life threatening thirst should take hold as the temperature soars towards 30C,  we can always nip into a bar and down a cold one. It is a most curious thing to do – carrying one’s own water supply around, I think.  And why would anyone PAY for water?   It comes out of taps and is free (apart from water rates).  I am going to join in and buy one of those old fashioned canvas water bottles they use on safaris and in the desert…. and fill it with water in the morning and Rioja for the early evening.

And then we have the ‘Tour de France’ nazis… the cyclists who think they own the roads. As a  real biker (fast motorbikes, as opposed to ridiculous leg powered things) I take the perfectly reasonable view that cyclists who wear spandex, yellow jerseys, and those stupid boat shaped helmets are the most dangerous road users.  They tend not to stop at red lights.  They ride on the pavements…sometimes, they shout at other road users, they are not identifiable (or accountable), they rarely signal and some of them even shave their legs… and not just, I am advised,  to avoid ingrowing hairs infecting the wounds when they inevitably get knockled over by a lorry or car.

I like people who ride bicycles and who look as if they are enjoying it. I think Spandex Man is related to Spandex Running Girl… suffering pain for their vanity and ego. I like the people who ride ordinary bicycles, wear ordinary clothes, don’t wear helmets.  I did see, in Chelsea – not today, but on Friday – a man in his late fifties or so, wearing a beautifully cut suit, brogues, riding a sit up and beg bicycle with a basket full of wine bottles…and he was smoking a small cigar.  He looked great and was, clearly, enjoying himself. He even managed to signal his intention to turn left.

And… inevitably.. there were a few lobsters about. Why do people who have wonderfully pale complexions, blonde hair,  ginger hair, think it is a good idea to burn themselves?  I heard a couple of women at the cafe warning each other of the perils.  They went into a lot of detail about Factor 50 creams. They must work because they looked normal and comfortable, unlike a few women and blokes who had spent much of the day on Sunday getting pissed in the sun and appeared to be walking burns victims today.  Of course, it wouldn’t be  Britain if the odd person did not complain about the heat…. and they were at it by midday.

I like Battersea Square.  I have met a few of the locals.  I have seen the people who use the Square…. very laid back and relaxed… and several regulars very amusing the other night, when I was sitting out with my ex over dinner at the Italian trattoria, who came over to chat.

I end my ‘rant’ and brief observations with some good news…

ASBO bans woman from lap dancing, pole dancing and prostitution

A woman alleged to have driven neighbours out of their homes by her sexual activities has been banned from inviting any men around for the night except for her brothers and the emergency services.

She is only allowed to invite her brothers over and the ’emergency services’?  How cool is that?

best, as always

Charon

Excellent email from Peter Crisp, BPP Law School

I am delighted to be able to report….

Dear Mike

Our QAA report has been published on our website since the end of last year (after we got permission from them to publish it):

http://www.bppuc.com/documents/DegreeAwardingPowers_001.pdf

Best

Peter (just off to have lunch, probably not sausages)

Peter Crisp
Dean, Law School
Chief Executive,
BPP College of Professional Studies Limited

Peter Crisp does have a sense of humour – this, I knew – so good effort for letting me know (albeit too late for my report last week, which I have now corrected.) I did have a look to see if the report had been published before writing.  Obviously, I did not look closely enough.  The publication of the report by BPP is a good thing and shows an open attitude which is to be applauded and encouraged.

Podcast for Inside Track: Ted Burke, CEO, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – The Future of The Legal Profession

Today I am talking to Ted Burke about  the prospects for Freshfields and the legal sector in the short to medium term.  He looks at the increasing globalisation of legal work and the knock-on effect for younger lawyers going to work in the City.  He discusses emerging economies such as India, China and Russia and considers opportunities for lawyers to outsource.  As a US qualified lawyer, Ted gives his view on the value of young City lawyers being US/UK dual-qualified.  He considers how the Legal Services Act will impact Freshfields and the other City and commercial law firms.  He ends with a look at the Eurozone and the role of lawyers in clearing up the ‘mess’ and the future global regulation of banking.

Listen to The College of Law Inside Track podcast

All the podcasts I have done for The College of Law

Law Review: Libel reform, torture investigations, Guardian Law section

In a modern, free, society, freedom of speech is prized as a right but it is a right delicately balanced between the right to freedom of speech and the right of reputation. The civil laws of defamation, embracing libel and slander, are a powerful, blunt and ruthless instrument used by a very small group of specialist lawyers to protect the interests of clients – sometimes reasonably, sometimes to suppress information.

Libel reform is long overdue. In today’s Times, Lord Lester, a Lib-Dem peer and a distinguished lawyer puts a compelling case for libel reform in his draft Bill. The article is a ‘must read’ for anyone interested in this area of law and freedopm of speech.

Lord Lester writes:

On Thursday my Private Member’s Defamation Bill will be published to help the Government to review the law. There will, of course, be professional resistance. Until now, libel law has remained the preserve of a small group of lawyers skilled in its complex rules and procedures. It has been left to judges to fashion the law, in concert with some piecemeal reforms in the 1950s and 1990s that never addressed free speech and could not have anticipated a culture of online publication and debate.

Current English libel law gives robust protection to reputation at the expense of freedom of speech. Its “chilling effect” on what people are prepared to publish has been aggravated by uncertainty about whether defences can be relied upon, and by conditional fee agreements that permit claimants’ lawyers to be unjustly enriched at the expense of writers and publishers. Claimants have been able to pursue claims where publication has caused them no substantial harm, and large corporations have brought actions against NGOs and newspapers without having to prove financial loss.

The government has plans for libel reform.  The removal of a ‘chilling weapon’ from the armoury of lawyers whose clients wish to use the law to suppress freedom of speech is long over due.  Perhaps the use of superinjunctions could be examined at the same time?

July 7 inquests will examine role of MI5

The Times reports: The activities and knowledge of M15 leading up to the July 7 bombings will be investigated as part of the inquests into the deaths of the 52 victims, the coroner ruled. Lady Justice Hallett said that it was “not too remote” to investigate what was known in the years before the atrocities took place.

“Plots of this kind are not developed over night,” the judge said at the High Court in London.

The scope of the inquests would therefore include the “alleged intelligence failings and the immediate aftermath of the bombings” She also ruled that the inquests into the deaths of the four suicide bombers would be held separately and she would sit without a jury.

I’m with William Hague on this one.  It is absolutely right that we examine closely the activities of our security services to ensure that we, as a country, are not complicit in Torture.  David Miliband has maintained consistently that we are not.  An investigatiuon into this and the activities of M15 more widely should establish the actuality one way or the other.

Replace House of Lords with experts to scrutinise legislation

Reform of the House of Lords is also long overdue.  I favour  abolition and replacement by a second elected chamber – where members will not receive outdated titles, be paid for their work and have a role in scrutinising (and improving legislation).  In the 21st Century, and in a modern democracy, I think it is quaint, but completely absurd, that men and women should wish to be called ‘Lord’ this or ‘Baroness’ that – pretty harmless, but if our second Chamber is just a way of rewarding politicians who have done their bit (often badly, given history) or as a reward for rich businessmen it isn’t really of much value to us as a second chamber.

The Times reports on an idea which may attract many: “A better solution would be to abolish the House of Lords and create a new statutory “commission for executive scrutiny” instead. It would not be a chamber of Parliament. Its members would be appointed, on merit, by an independent appointing body; they would be part-time and paid only a per diem allowance for attendance; there would be, say, 200 of them; there would be a gender, ethnic and party balance; a proportion of non-party members; and a spread of expertise to enable the commission to do its work well. Mandating or whipping would be forbidden.”

City firms welcome survival of the Financial Services Authority

The Times notes: “An almost audible sigh of relief swept through the corridors of banking and regulation departments in City law firms when the new Government jettisoned proposals to scrap the Financial Services Authority (FSA), one of the totems of the new Labour years and a personal creation of Gordon Brown.”

THE GUARDIAN DOES LAW… and it is good.

I am delighted to see that The Guardian has started a new Law section.  It is rather good.

Judge-only trials should be an option for serious organised crimes

Louis Blom-Cooper: Trial by jury has become a central feature of the coalition agreement policy on civil liberties ‑ but is it time for reform?

Rive Gauche:The Paralytic Olympics, conduct unbecoming of a barrister and the sun shines…

Taking breakfast after an extremely amusing dinner last night with my ex, I purchased The Times, The Independent and The Sun at the cafe in Battersea Square and settled down to read.  Clarkson in The Sun is usually good value and today his thoughts on the Olympics made me laugh out loud.  Missing a trick by not calling it The Paralytic Olympics, he suggested that as we have no money and our national sport is not football, but binge-drinking, we should convert the 2012 Olympics into a Drunken Olympics.  Instead of criticising young people (and not so young people like me and many I know) in town centres on a Friday and Saturday evening  for excessive drinking, we would be able to applaud them for their diligence in training for their special event.  Clarkson mused on the amusement to be had from officials running for cover during the Drunken javelin event, people falling out of boats in the rowing and archers with arrows stuck in their legs. It would, Clarkson wrote, restore our worldwide reputation for a sense of humour and if the audience entered into the spirit of things by doing some amateur binge-drinking,  we would not notice that the opening ceremony was lit only  by a 40 watt bulb and inspired by a brass band from Yorkshire.

I have to say, that I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in the Olympics. The logo is terrible and the new mascots,  to my eye – because I am not five – are ludicrous and deserve the pillorying they are getting.  I had a go at my own Olympic mascot the other day.

As I have observed on many occasions – I think they should stop all this drug testing nonsense (they’ll never win).  I would pay good money to see a man jump 70ft into the air or run 100 metres in 3.5 seconds.

And so… to a remarkable story about a barrister…

A barrister in a £33million race row who waged a campaign of harassment against her former boyfriend was yesterday ordered to pay £1,000 compensation to his new love interest. Dr Aisha Bijlani, 43, bombarded her ex-boyfriend with abusive emails and was hell-bent on destroying his life after he left her for a German model. But rejecting an appeal against her harassment convictions, Judge Peter Clarke QC ordered Bijlani to pay 28-year-old advertising model Nicola Koenig £1,000 for her troubles. Bijlani asked marketing executive Atul Sehgal, 41, whether his dead mother was a whore and told him he was a ‘pathetic lap dog’, ‘a*******’, ‘loser’ and an ‘impotent gay man’ who was a ‘failure in every way’, the court was told.

She also sent five abusive emails in four days to Ms Koenig, Mr Sehgal’s friend, telling her she was a ‘German Nazi prostitute’, a ‘cheap hooker’, a ‘working class trollop’ and a ‘flat-chested asexual freak’ with sweaty feet who should lick toilet bowls for a living. The judge said: ‘It is not only a remarkable communication to make to a complete stranger but, we’re bound to say, one a person who has been practising at the bar for 14 years must have been suffering from a significant degree of stress to invent.

Daily Mail

I am familiar with this story, having reported on it at the time… but it is Saturday Rive Gaucheso no harm in digging it up again for your edification and delight?

A married judge and his blonde legal clerk lover faced an extraordinary £33million claim by an Asian barrister who says she was the victim of racial discrimination. At an employment tribunal, Aisha Bijlani also accused the married clerk, Lizzie Wiseman, of having a second extra-marital affair with another leading QC. And she claimed she was viewed in her legal chambers as nothing more than an ‘educated wog’.

Big Society: 6.05 pm – Iain Duncan Smith is in The Diary Room (with an exorcist?)

Big Society: 6.05 pm – Iain Duncan-Smith is in The Diary Room

Big Society: Good afternoon Secretary of State.  Found any exorcists in your new department…?  I’m sure there are quite a few demons over there?

Ian Duncan-Smith: hahaha… no, demons, yes… but no exorcists here.

Big Society: So… you have the distinction of being the only leader of a parliamentary party forced out on a vote of no confidence by your own party.  Recovered?

Ian Duncan-Smith: Yes, absolutely… they called me the ‘Quiet Man’… I even told them not to underestimate me… but they did… but now I’m back with my Centre for Social Justice and a good team.

Big Society: yes… it would appear that you are back. William Hague is another former leader.  I was surprised they didn’t have any room for Michael Howard – the leader who never slept – but I suppose they had to shoehorn all those Lib-Dems in.  So… what has it being like trying to persuade some of your more, shall we say, ‘right thinking’ colleagues  of the value of your centre for Social Justice?

Ian Duncan-Smith: A bit like shining a pencil torch into a dark void.

Big Society: hahaha – ah well… they’re a bit busy at the moment trying to fend of Dave’s brilliant new plan to infiltrate the 1922 Committee to stop it being an internal focus for dissent.  Still… some of your colleagues must have been a bit pissed orf not to have got a nice little number or sinecure and now find those jumped up tree huggers bigging it up in the corridors of power.  Well… it has to be said that social justice agenda is right  at the heart of David Cameron’s repositioning of the Tory party under the Compassionate Conservative schtik.

Ian Duncan-Smith: Yes, absolutely… Mrs Thatcher was right in 1987  to talk about the inner cities. She just never got there.

Big Society: So getting fired by the men in suits didn’t bother you that much… you’ve come back.

Ian Duncan-Smith: It was difficult being leader, I make no bones about it. The Labour Party was in the ascendant, we weren’t. We were still tearing chunks off ourselves. But I have no regrets.

Big Society: How long do you think it will be before some of your disenfranchised and disenchanted back benchers and paid up members of the awkward squad will kick off… to use a modern term?

Ian Duncan-Smith: Not long…. but we have a lot of goodwill in the country with this new politics schtik and with quite a lot of people selling their old principles down the river and becoming ‘born again politicians’ we have a majority…. Labour want to re-group so can’t afford to bring us down yet, so even if a few Lib-Dems escape… we should be OK for a while… Even Ed Balls is trying to persuade people he has mellowed and will listen… hahaha…. I can’t see it myself… but who knows…?  we live in interesting times.

Big Society: Normally, Secretary of State, I can listen endlessly… but I’ve just had a call from our producer…. he’s telling me you are just too reasonable and sensible these days… can you come up with real fruit loop stuff next time you come into The Diary Room..? . perhaps encourage Nadine to go for judicial review of the Speaker election… or get some of them to call for an immediate restoration of hunting and tiger shooting, withdrawal from Europe, abolish the Human Rights Act that sort of thing…?  you know… the shit that sells newspapers and makes Daily Politics and Newsnight watchable?

Ian Duncan-Smith: Ok… err…. I’ll see what I can do… bye Big Society….

Big Society: Bye… mind how you go…. Exorciso te romanum and all that!

***

Lawyer’s disclaimer! All, well some it,  entirely fictitious and made up… obviously.

And now a little bit of light relief – fancy a sausage?

With the onset of summer, the work for the day done, I took myself  (and my slightly sinister new temporary  tache) off to a cafe in Battersea Square to sit in the sun, drink black coffee, smoke Marlboros and catch up on a bit of law news in The Guardian and The Times.

After reading about Ken Clarke and how he won’t be an easy lay as Lord Chancellor, I turned to The Times Student Law section which can often a gorge fest for advertorial.  Today was no different.  I was entertained for five minutes by an article where  Peter Crisp,  CEO of BPP Law School,  justified his law school’s outrageous over subscription of students on the BVC last year – because ‘BPP is so popular’.  It appeared to have nothing whatsoever to do with extra wedge or , more formally, income or…indeed…. poor administration. Peter Crisp said there is now a statistician (appointed by the BVC) to ensure that BPP Law School registrars can count.

Yesterday I wrote about the extraordinary story of Katie Best at the BPP Business School saying she regarded the description ‘sausage factory’ as a compliment….

Actually, I take the “BPP is a sausage factory” criticism as a compliment – and not just because it reveals the nervousness of the establishment about the shake-ups in the sector we may prompt. Last time I looked, sausage factories were highly efficient, rational places that make money by providing consumers with a product they desire. Only a very small proportion of sausage factories make their money from churning out products of dubious quality; the rest focus their attention on making affordable, high-quality products that ensure repeat purchase.”

I repeat my hope that this ‘thinking’ does not escape, jump over the wall and infect the quality of work done by the professional team at BPP Law School!

Anyway, you have to hand it to Peter Crisp – he certainly keeps the message that BPP were not at fault in any way for the over recruitment on message.

Good News:  BPP has published the QAA report

I seem to recall that Peter Crisp has two sausage dogs!

Anyway… moving on to other matters legal…

Law firms take up the supermarket challenge

Tesco, the Co-op and others are planning to launch their new legal services under opportunities afforded by The Legal Services Act.  Big brand names are going into the market – including The Halifax.

I am pleased to report that The Times is reporting that high street solicitors are rising to this challenge with their own “BRAND”…. QualitySolicitors – providing no frills legal advice.

The Times reports: “Craig Holt, barrister and chief executive of the new QualitySolicitors network, said: “What the legal market is desperately missing is a recognisable, customer service-focused national brand name — a ‘household name’ — that people can rely on without having to spend hours researching and choosing between dozens of local law firms.”

I’m not sure the name is that great… a bit last century – but hey… what’s in a name?”

I rather suspect that branding this operation will cost a fair bit of money.  tesco, the Co-op and halifax sp[end millions and are already well known.  What’s more – they have the space in their supermarkets and bank outlets.  I rather liked this comment…

Eddie Ryan, managing director of Co-operative Legal Services, said: “Yes, we are a threat, [but] are we going to try and wipe out small firms? No.”

Yeah… right!

Law Review: So why do 75% of Sun readers want to get rid of the Human Rights Act? What is there not to like?

The Sun had a poll this morning suggesting that only one in four people wants to keep the Human Rights Act.
I carried out a very unscientific poll of my own this morning while I had coffee. I asked a few people having coffee at the cafe what they thought of the Human Rights Act. Two said they didn’t know anything about it. This is quite understandable – how many people really do, apart from lawyers, politicos and activists? Two said it had to be abolished, but admitted they had never read the Act or the European Convention and one person said it was absolutely vital we keep it – but he, too, admitted that he had never read the act or the convention. Intrigued by this, I rang up two lawyer friends. They are not Human Rights lawyers (Obviously, human rights lawyers tend to know what is in the Act and the Convention). They were only able to tell me about three of the freedoms enshrined in the convention. I was rather surprised – but not totally surprised. The truth of the matter is that most people don’t know the structure of the Convention or the Act, let alone the main provisions or the detail. This is totally understandable.  They have a broad ‘feel’ based on news and reading in the newspapers.


But have a look at the list of freedoms below and see what you think. Do they look unreasonable ideals to you? I would be surprised if you do think they are unreasonable ideals.

The Human Rights Act has, almost certainly, been misused and has thrown up many anomalies – but is this a reason to remove it from our law? `We can repeal the Human Rights Act, but we can’t take ourselves out of the European Convention on Human Rights without coming out of Europe. It may well be useful to have a British Bill of Rights, building on the provisions on the HRA – a Commission may well recommend this in time.

The Human Rights Act 1998

An Act to give further effect to rights and freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights; to make provision with respect to holders of certain judicial offices who become judges of the European Court of Human Rights; and for connected purposes.

Few, I suspect, if any, would want to live in a country where basic freedoms are not protected with the full force of law.

A British Bill of Rights would have to be consistent with the European Convention – so how much different would it be from the Human Rights Act? I suspect that a Commission may well improve and increase the freedoms. I hope so – the more free we are, the happier and more respected a country we will be. I do agree that we need to get rid of useless, repressive,  laws and misuse of laws designed specifically to combat terror – but which appear to be being used against the people of our country rather than terrorists – ID, photography, protest, wheelie bins et al. I do agree that we need to remove a culture of compensation for everything and discard some of the more ludicrous aspects of political correctness.

Human Rights is important to everyone – the law guarantees our freedom from oppression by the state.

We have ‘relatively’  benign governments in this country – whatever your political leanings – compared to others less fortunate in other parts of the world.   Nick Clegg and his LIb-Dems are saying that we don’t just need to return power to people, we need to give people back their rights.  If he can pull this off, he is to be applauded.  I am only sorry that Labour has not done this – rather surprising given their original political roots.  Hopefully, Labour will have learned from the past 13 years in power that power has to be used wisely, be measured and considered, and not be responsive to knee jerking tabloid ranting….. and certainly  not be misused against the people governed.

The present Coalition government wants to make those freedoms more real, more practical and more usable – but in a balanced way so that our greatest protection – freedom from harm by others  – is properly addressed with open and effective laws designed for that purpose.  I don’t see a Coalition government destroying the concept of freedoms.    Clegg and his Lib-Dem colleagues are right to insist that this is their red line in the sand. Sabre rattling at election time is all very well, but we live a world of ‘real politik’.

Why do so many people ‘hate’ the Human Rights Act (and, of course the Convention)? I haven’t a clue – other than hatred of it whipped up tabloids concentrating on the more bizarre aspects and anomalies – which, is a minority of applications of the laws in daily practice.   Abuse of the Act and the more insane political correctness aspects can be addressed – but do we really want to go back to a pre European Convention law structure?

What, below, is there not to like? Not much, I suspect, will your answer if you are not familiar with the provisions of the Convention and the Human Rights Act. So why do  75% of Sun Readers polled want to get rid of the Act?  Are we living in a country populated by nutters and fascists? No… I suspect the truth of the matter – and I mean no criticism – is that most people don’t actually know how valuable the Convention and the Act is to our country and to maintaining peace in Europe, simply because they haven’t studied it in detail.  They do not see the wood for the trees (and, again I mean no criticism) because Tabloids don’t want to look at success or detail, they just want to bang on about unelected judges releasing terrorists into the community so they can kill everyone, including themselves… and thereby, sell a few more newspapers.  The Daily Mail, the Daily Express – and even The Sun and The Mirror are not exactly immune to such seductive money make ‘SCOOPS’.

Let a Commission get rid of some of the nonsense – but don’t be too quick to talk of ‘powers’ being handed to ‘unelected judges’. Our judges apply the law – that is what judges do.  The judges apply human rights law to protect us – and that has, on occasion, been difficult for Home Secretaries and other politicians who usually use the rubric that they are ‘disappointed’ when a decision of the courts doesn’t go their way.

If you aren’t familiar with the structure – here are the headings.  Wikipedia has more detail.  (I have left wikipedia references in below)

Article 1 – respecting rights

Article 1 simply binds the signatory parties to secure the rights under the other Articles of the Convention “within their jurisdiction”.

Article 2 – life

Article 2 protects the right of every person to their life.

Article 3 – torture

Article 3 prohibits torture, and “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. There are no exceptions or limitations on this right. This provision usually applies, apart from torture, to cases of severe police violence and poor conditions in detention.

Article 4 – servitude

Article 4 prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour

Article 5 – liberty and security

Article 5 provides that everyone has the right to liberty and security of person.

Article 6 – fair trial

Article 6 provides a detailed right to a fair trial

Article 7 – retrospectivity

Prohibits the retrospective criminalisation of acts and omissions.[edit]

Article 8 – privacy

Article 8 provides a right to respect for one’s “private and family life, his home and his correspondence

Article 9 – conscience and religion

Article 9 provides a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Article 10 – expression

Article 10 provides the right to freedom of expression, subject to certain restrictions that are “in accordance with law” and “necessary in a democratic society”. This right includes the freedom to hold opinions, and to receive and impart information and ideas.

Article 11 – association

Article 11 protects the right to freedom of assembly and association, including the right to form trade unions, subject to certain restrictions that are “in accordance with law” and “necessary in a democratic society”.

Article 12 – marriage

Article 12 provides a right for women and men of marriageable age to marry and establish a family.

Article 13 – effective remedy

Article 13 provides for the right for an effective remedy before national authorities for violations of rights under the Convention. The inability to obtain a remedy before a national court for an infringement of a Convention right is thus a free-standing and separately actionable infringement of the Convention.

Article 14 – discrimination

Article 14 contains a prohibition of discrimination.

Article 15 – derogations

Article 15 allows contracting states to derogate from certain rights guaranteed by the Convention in time of “war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation”.

Article 16 – aliens

Article 16 allows states to restrict the political activity of foreigners. The Court has ruled that European Union member states cannot consider the nationals of other member states to be aliens.[16]

Article 17 – abuse of rights

Article 17 provides that no one may use the rights guaranteed by the Convention to seek the abolition or limitation of rights guaranteed in the Convention.

Article 18 – permitted restrictions

Article 18 provides that any limitations on the rights provided for in the Convention may be used only for the purpose for which they are provided.

Protocol 1, Article 1 – property

Article 1 provides for the rights to the peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions.

Protocol 1, Article 2 – education

Article 2 provides for the right not to be denied an education and the right for parents to have their children educated in accordance with their religious and other views.

Protocol 1, Article 3 – elections

Article 3 provides for the right to regular, free and fair elections.

Protocol 4 – civil imprisonment, free movement, expulsion

Article 1 prohibits the imprisonment of people for breach of a contract.

Protocol 6 – restriction of death penalty

Requires parties to restrict the application of the death penalty to times of war or “imminent threat of war”.

Protocol 7 – crime and family

  • Article 1 provides for a right to fair procedures for lawfully resident foreigners facing expulsion.
  • Article 2 provides for the right to appeal in criminal matters.
  • Article 3 provides for compensation for the victims of miscarriages of justice.
  • Article 4 prohibits the re-trial of anyone who has already been finally acquitted or convicted of a particular offence (Double jeopardy).
  • Article 5 provides for equality between spouses.

Protocol 12 – discrimination

Applies the current expansive and indefinite grounds of prohibited discrimination in Article 14 to the exercise of any legal right and to the actions (including the obligations) of public authorities.

Protocol 13 – complete abolition of death penalty

Provides for the total abolition of the death penalty.[20]

Actually, I take the “BPP is a sausage factory” criticism as a compliment – Katie Best, BPP Business School

Producing the highest-quality MBAs is the unabashed aim of ‘sausage factory’ BPP. Katie Best is proud to see it deliver

My employer, BPP Business School, has been characterised by a number of critics as a “sausage factory”. It is believed that BPP represents the ultimate expression of the industrialisation of higher education. We are treated by critics as a smear on the face of UK higher education, encouraging the rationalisation of degree-level education and framing the student as merely a consumer. We are thought to make the student journey a little bit poorer because of it.

Actually, I take the “BPP is a sausage factory” criticism as a compliment – and not just because it reveals the nervousness of the establishment about the shake-ups in the sector we may prompt. Last time I looked, sausage factories were highly efficient, rational places that make money by providing consumers with a product they desire. Only a very small proportion of sausage factories make their money from churning out products of dubious quality; the rest focus their attention on making affordable, high-quality products that ensure repeat purchase.”

Times Higher Education supplement.

Do, please, read this wonderful parody.  I won’t be doing a parody – no need to… the article by Katie Best and the Poppleton University pastiche does it for me.
Our Sausage is better than yours

I spent 30 years in legal education.  I even managed to play a part in founding BPP Law School and was the first CEO  – which probably irritates the hell out of them now, given my present re-incarnation. BPP Law School and BPP Business Business School are run by the same team and owned, now, by US education firm Apollo who run the very large University of Phoenix in the States.

I am all for law schools using well produced course materials, multi-media;  even bringing some structure into teaching and deploying modern technology.  The last thing we need is students being churned through a professional course like sausages because that gives rise to minced brains and in these days minced brains are not going to do the work needed to the standards demanded.  Education is more than process.  Education is about learning, thinking, reflecting and taking responsibility oneself – owning the material being covered,  and using it to lay the foundation of a successful (and happy) career thereafter.


Let us just hope that Ms Best’s sausage machine thinking hasn’t escaped and jumped over the wall into BPP Law School – or has it…?  Anyone studying at BPP Law School who would like to tell me what it is like these days only needs to email me!  (Email)  Confidentiality guaranteed…. good or bad.

Why am I thinking of Pink Floyd.. We don’t need no EDUKASHEN… Teacher.. leave the kids alone ?

Law Review: Clegg’s Reform, Human Rights Act and the job of the judge.

The speech by Nick Clegg this morning is remarkable for two reasons – firstly, if he can pull it off with Coalition support and not be blocked by disenfranchised and disenchanted right wing elements in the Conservative party,  it will be a truly remarkable achievement and, secondly, that it took a Liberal-Conservative government to achieve it.

The text of  the speech promises many things, including – the scrapping of the ID and biometric passport requirement, a tightening of DNA rules, the proper regulation of CCTV and use of terror legislation and a wholesale revision and repeal of oppressive and unnecessary terror legislation.

Nick Clegg made a very pertinent point – that many of the more repressive laws brought in over the last 13 years have not, in fact, made us safer on the streets.

The text of this excellent speech, if you have not read it, is here.

‘Al-Qaeda operative’ can stay in UK despite posing threat, judge rules

The Times reports: The leader of an al-Qaeda terrorist cell that plotted a bomb atrocity in Britain will not be deported after a tribunal ruled that his human rights would be breached if he were ill treated by Pakistan’s security services. Mr Justice Mitting said that although it was “conducive to the public good that he should be deported” this was not possible because of the risk that he would suffer torture at the hands of Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI).

In his first major set-piece speech to launch the Liberal-Conservative programme of political reform, Mr Clegg said, “The law is very clear that it is wrong to deport people where there is risk that they will be seriously mistreated, tortured or even killed.”  (Times)  Nick Clegg is certainly sticking to his principles – and I have no difficulty at all in applauding him for that.

Far from being a blight on on our law, the Human Rights Act is law of which we can all be proud providing, as it does, a clear legal structure that to protect the individual from the state. It is ironic that some  right wing Tories want a wholesale revision of this into some form of British Bill of Rights – a proposal described by the now Lord Chancellor, Ken Clarke, as ‘xenophobic and legal nonsense’.  The European Convention on Human Rights is  a largely British construct – some say, part of Churchill’s legacy.  Perhaps some hard line Tories are unaware of this history?

It may well be that the Human Rights can be improved and it is right that a Commission be appointed to examine how the law could be improved.  Unfortunately, a failure to prosecute the ‘Al-Qaeda operatives’ before a jury has resulted in a rather curious situation where a High Court judge – doing the job he is appointed to do – applies the law and while admitting that the man is a danger to society he could not deport him because of the risk that he would suffer torture at the hands of Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI).  Theresa May will have to find another way of dealing with this – and she shows every intention, in a measured way as far as I can see from reports, of doing so.

While judges do, occasionally, get the law wrong and may well give out sentences which do not suit the crime or, possibly, the bloodlust of the extreme right, they don’t make that many mistakes and it is hardly fair to criticise a judge for applying the law correctly as it presently stands.  That is what judges do.  They decide cases according to the law of England & Wales.  Would that it were otherwise?  Mr Justice Mitting is not ‘shredding our human rights at the expense of a terrorist’ as Andy Hayman, a former Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police,  seemed to be suggesting in the Times this morning – Mr Justice Mitting is applying the law as it stands.   If we want to change the law – at the risk of stating the bleeding obvious (but it does seem to be necessary given the nonsense in some papers this morning) the proper place is our elected Parliament – as our MPs and most  well know.

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, rightly (in my view) said the proper course of action in the case of these students would be to put them on trial before a jury for terrorist offences and if the evidence supports a guilty verdict, convict them according to law,  and  punish according to law.

The hearing yesterday in the SIAC court was to hear an appeal against deportation. The students were not prosecuted for terrorism offences because there was no evidence of explosives or bomb making equipment.   The Times states that ‘The court ruled that it was not safe to send them back to Pakistan – even though on the basis of the evidence, not disclosed, both men were a threat to national security.”

Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and British courts have ruled that this means that Britain cannot deport people to places where this might happen.  the men will now be subject to control orders.

The whole issue of secret evidence, intercept evidence and terrorism prosecutions needs to be examined.  For the present we have a situation where rare anomalies of this nature can occur.  That is no reason for throwing the baby out of or with the bath water.

I was talking to @thegreatignored this morning – a man of wisdom. He told me that some people’s knees jerked so violently they end up kicking themselves in the head.  I could not put it more eloquently

***

UPDATE

This analysis by Pragmatist is well worth a read

The Best of Nick & Dave – GERTCHA!

And Parliament opens with the very best of Nick n Dave

nuff said guvnor edition….  or as they might say… given that Gertcha means bugger off / get out of here…… “Bugger orf….”

I do approve of OddbinsDirect… they say that caffeine halts Alzheimer.  I never forget where my red wine is.  I am delighted that Luke Skywalker and Data from Startrek are running the country and that my local off licence is but a short walk away…

And as the Chas & Dave song goes….

***

Rabbit, rabbit …..(repeat)

You got a beautiful chin,
You got beautiful skin,
You got a beautiful face,
You got taste

You got beautiful eyes,
You got beautiful thighs,
You got a lot, without a doubt,
But I’m thinkin’ bout blowin you out,

With apologies to Chas & Dave

Podcast Inside Track: Nicholas Green QC – Chairman of the Bar on the future of the legal profession

Nicholas Green QC – Chairman of the Bar on the future of the legal profession

Nicholas Green QC outlines his vision for the future of the Bar, his optimism that it will continue to develop and grow and his belief in the need for it to become more commercial, while holding on to the highest professional standards. He discusses the impact of the Legal Services Act, including the ability of barristers to go into partnership with solicitors, the issue of direct access to the Bar plus the increasing flexibility of career routes into the profession.

Listen to the podcast

This podcast was recorded as part of The College of Law Inside Track series.

Series 1 of Inside Track, which I did for The College of Law,  may be viewed here

Big Society 12.05 pm: The Lord Chancellor is in the Diary Room

Big Society: Good afternoon, Lord Chancellor. Any “xenophobic and legal nonsense” being cooked up today in The House?

Lord Chancellor: Good afternoon, Big Society. While I had anticipated that I might be doing something with George at the Department of Business,  that has gone by the board to accommodate dear old Vince.  I am, however, delighted to be at the Ministry of Justice.  I am a Bencher of my Inn and my legal experience should, after all, give me a bit of a head start in my new department.  It is not as if I will need to read Law made Simple unlike Theresa over at the Home Office.

Big Society: Indeed.  Did your predecessor leave you a letter saying that there was no money left?

Lord Chancellor: hahaha… no… nothing like that… although there was an absurdly large report on the reform of Civil Justice in the drawer with some very amusing comments in the margins.

Big Society: So.. you’ll be getting down to business, trawling through american websites, to see where you can buy pre-fabricated prisons and prison ships to accommodate all the “have a go heroes” who  don’t quite come within the provisions of Theresa May’s new ‘Good Samaritan’ law?

Lord Chancellor: We will have to wait for  the draft legislation on this.  I suspect it will not be that different from the present law by the time she finds time to get around to it.  She has rather more pressing matters to attend to.

Big Society: Indeed.  Been boning up on the unwritten British Constitution and your Human Rights Law?   Your predecessor, Charlie Falconer was accused  of designing the new Supreme Court on the back of a fag packet over whisky with Tony Blair.  Are we going to be seeing reports of you enjoying a beer and a large cigar with David Cameron and then revealing a Bill of Rights with so many holes in it  that even a recidivistic first year law student  with a bad hangover could see the problems?

Lord Chancellor: Hahaha.  No, I think I can safely say the the future of our constitution is safe and the Human Rights laws will also be in safe hands. Government tends to bring about a re-assessment of the more ambitious manifesto claims.

Big Society: The Coalition agreement talks about repealing a raft of laws, preserving the right to jury trial and curtailing the misuse of anti-terror legislation.   You are going to be fairly busy are you not?

Lord Chancellor: Modifying a statement I made some time back… I have certainly not got re-elected to retire, and I shall certainly start trying to push my influence in government as far as I possibly can

Big Society: You said some time ago..and I quote..“The Conservative Party have got to ask themselves, ‘How do we persuade people who at the moment are voting Labour and Liberal Democrat to vote Conservative?” It seems that your party pulled a blinder and didn’t need to get the people who voted Lib-Dem to vote Conservative, they just had to persuade the people who the voters voted for to come in with you.

Lord Chancellor: Hahaha. We live in remarkable and interesting times, Big Society.

Big Society: You are a Big Beast in political terms and Cameron took a risk in putting you back on the shadow front bench, given your well known views on Europe.  Not a great deal of European dimension in the Ministry of Justice is there?

Lord Chancellor: No… I don’t think I’ll be troubling our friends in Europe on too many Justice issues… but a re-shuffle may come along soon… and…modifying something else I said some time ago… of course I’d have loved to be Chancellor or Business Secrtary. But I’m not nursing a grievance.  I’ve got to go…. The Chairman of the Bar wants to talk to me about legal aid and a few other matters.

Big Society: Good luck… he knows what he’s talking about.

Lord Chancellor: Indeed… we’ll have another chat soon, Big Society

Big Society: I’m always here.

***

Lawyer’s disclaimer! All, well some it,  entirely fictitious and made up… obviously.

Postcard from The Staterooms

Today is the anniversary, all those years ago, when I landed on Earth. I’ve always been into gizmos and gadgets.  If the iPhone had been around then, I would have asked my Mother to go easy on the breast feeding and just get me some apps.  The iPhone and twitter weren’t around when I was born in what was then called the Gold Coast, now by the rather nicer name Ghana.  So my Mother gave me some paper and early telegraph facilities. 140 characters on twitter is a breeze compared to issuing requests by morse code from my cot for my Mother to try a rather nice Rioja Crianza which I spied on the drinks table on the verandah –  so that I could get a hit later when it was feeding time. To be honest… I think my parents drank industrial quantities of Gordon’s Gin (Export Strength)  in those days.  Many expatriates in Africa did.  You should see what they got up to in East Africa in Happy Valley in the 1950s.  My parents were in West Africa. I still have photographs of my Father blowing up condoms on a beach on the coast at 6.00 am, after an allnighter,  with a lot of other over refreshed people.  I believe my Mother smoked Lucky Strike in those days.  It could have been Rothmans, State Express 555 or even Peter Styvesant.  I was far too young to tell the difference, being 14 days old. I do remember that they came in cylindrical tin cans of 50, which I think would be an excellent way for cigarettes to be sold today.

I’ve never been interested in looking back – so that is your lot. I won’t be getting any juicy advances from a publisher for that. I have lots of ancestors.  Everyone has.  In fact, ineluctably, we are almost certainly related if you go back far enough.

In my teens I used to wonder at what point one grew wiser, or even, up. Some people do both as they pass through Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man… I appear not to be one of these unfortunate people. Sure, the body isn’t quite what is was.  The hair has gone a bit silvery in parts and if I decide not to shave for a week I can do a pretty convincing reprise of King Lear when I get up in the morning.  I am pleased to report that although I am older… I am definitely none the wiser.  I am an optimist.  I’ve managed to avoid the Grim Reaper (They say most people die at 4.00 am or thereabouts) by the simple expedient of getting up at 3.30 am.  It works..and it is working today.

I don’t work on my birthday if I can possibly avoid it. I work every other day of the year…sometimes even on Christmas Day, but on my birthday I make a special effort.  It was a bit earlier than planned, having gone to bed at 11.00 pm,  to wake at 1.00 am – but as the wine was to hand and  the Marlboros purchased the previous day  had not all been smoked, what better way at 02.27 am to spend part of one’s anniversary of arrival on Earth writing a blog post.

My plan for the year ahead is to divide my life between the real and surreal. I shall continue to do analytical and sensible podcasts and Law Reviews, I shall continue to engage in work projects which interest and amuse me and I shall continue to develop my online rag Insite Law.  As to the surreal – more ‘painting’ is on the way.  I am enjoying putting together the scripts (and more so the recorded versions with friends) for Big Society: In The Diary Room… and I have no doubt  that the year to come will throw up many opportunities for parody from both the legal and political world.  Politicians and lawyers just can’t help themselves.  Sooner or later they will do something to cause me to wipe red wine off my new keyboard or desk.

Well…it is 3.52 am…and a miost amusing early morning after talking to my friend Cybil in Aus…. on Skype…  BUT as it would be inelegant to arrive at my usual cafe where I now take breakfast – over refreshed after an allnighter….. I shall nip back to bed and see if I can get some sleep.

Best, as always

Charon

PS.. I may do a Law Review when I get up…  that is pleasure.. not work.  I’ve just seen the Grim Reaper… he raised a glass to me and went on his way.  I have no idea what he drinks.

Big Society: 9.05 am – William Hague is in The Diary Room

Big Society: 9.05 am – William Hague is in The Diary Room

Big Society: Hello, Foreign Secretary.

Hague: Hello. We think a great crisis is coming for Europe. The last thing Britain should do is associate ourselves with the fastest shrinking part of the world economy.

Big Society: Ah…. I see you have settled into your new role well….So we don’t need to discuss Europe today, because, obviously,  you have no foreign policy thoughts about Europe. Is that why you jetted off to Washington in an unslavish way?

Hague: It was important to see The Secretary of State so she could be told, firmly, what our position is.  It is all very well President Obama calling Dave and saying how important the ‘special relationship’ is to him, but the truth of the matter is, under Brown, it wasn’t.  Do remember that Obama has one Kenyan parent and our foreign policy in Kenya all those years ago wasn’t to the taste of many Kenyans… indeed, any Kenyans. Britain is not exactly top of his list of favourite world destinations.  This is why he sent the bust of Churchill which has been in the Oval Office for years back.  Some regarded that as an insult.  This is why he shook hands with the policeman outside Number 10 – who he found much more amusing and interesting than Gordon Brown. Britain and America do have a special relationship and we must work together to undermine the Liberal-Democrats in our country and, for the moment, in our government.

Big Society: You once said of a former deputy prime minister…The Deputy Prime Minister will present a bill that is rambling, over-inflated, illogical and ridiculously cumbersome – funny coincidence, that.”…  Can you see yourself re-cycling this marvellous quote in relation to the new deputy PM who doesn’t seem to have a job in government?

Hague: I can tell you this…. that when Dave goes off to a meeting with a member of a centre-left party  and refers to himself as a liberal, he is on manoeuvres, and is busily building coalitions as only he can.

Big Society: Now you are back from the United States, what is your first priority apart from marginalising the liberals in your new LibCon coalition?

Hague: Failed parties and widespread poverty of thinking are problems growing today but are scarcely new in human history. But on top of these problems, worrying enough in themselves, come two central challenges which are immense in their scope and which the world has never had to face before. The first of these is the certainty of irreversible damage to the Liberal-Democratic party. Our Coalition, which as you know I negotiated. It brings a very real threat to the very existence of that party, if you listen to the new and eloquent Secretary for Business describe the predicament of a party,  no part of which is now visible as a separate party save for a few remote parts of Scotland, where dissenters like Ming and Charlie hold court.  The Maldives, no part of which is more than six feet above the sea,  may well have a problem if the climate change experts are right, but it will take hundreds of years before they disappear and they can plan.  The Lib-Dems could disappear by Christmas.

Big Society: So your hasty post-election coalition was part of a grand plan… as has been suggested by conspiracy theorists all over Twitter?

Hague: Indeed.

Big Society: And your thinking on relations with the rest of the world?  China, Russia.. for example?

Hague: Not only is the world not converging around our new democratic norms – global freedom suffered its third year of growth in 2008 – but older  democratic nations like , France, Germany and even Italy, Spain and Portugal all once run by dictators,  do not necessarily share our view of how to conduct foreign policy. China, Zimbabwe and the recent elections in Afghanistan are more in line with our current practice – you only need to look at the way we handled things with all those long queues of voters unable to vote to see how Britain is catching up with these new democracies.

Big Society: Any plans to invade Iran?

Hague: In Britain, “Liberal interventionism”, which started in America, has generated much debate and we are more than happy to subscribe to it and invade Iran if they don’t do what they are told and the Americans invite us to help.  It is in the national interest that we continue to invade countries, not least, because it gives good employment to our national armed forces.  We must not disconsolately cease to make the effort. Foreign policy is above all about the protection and promotion of our national interest, and even narrowly defined and limited by lack of money and  the mess the last government left behind them, the British national interest requires our continued fully active engagement in invasions of other countries. No other nation or group of nations are going to increase the protection they afford us, and the essential alliance we enjoy with the United States  depends directly on us continuing to do what we are told by them.

Big Society: Isn’t that rather slavish?

Hague: Not at all.  This is a time of great financial crisis, a time of great hardship – and as we are going to inflict great hardship on the people of our country, we must not drop our guard and lose opportunity to do so on other countries as well with our friends across the sea.  Our new Liberal-Democratic friends may have to search long and hard in what is left of their consciences, but by the time we get around to Phase Two at the end of the year it may well be too late to return to the Liberal-Democratic party. There won’t be one.  Why do you think that Dave has appointed 20 liberals – nearly half their party – to government posts?  Collective responsibility is only part of the answer, the other part is that either they will have to become National Liberals and join us as Tories or return to being an unruly and irrelevant rabble in Parliament – as I know them to be having negotiated this coalition – and be mocked by all, even the DUP and SNP.

***

Hague’s Mobile Rings: Dave… Yes… I’ll be with you shortly.  I’m in The Diary Room with Big Society, setting our record straight for the people who didn’t vote for us.  I’ll be with you at the National Security meeting shortly… is Clegg coming?……. Ha Ha Ha – excellent… the tree huggers and sandal wearers will have apoplexy when they hear  he has approved our plans to go into Iran with the Yanks.

***

Hague: I’ve got to go, Big Society.  Good talking with you… we must do this again.  I’ll get my new Lib-Dem secretary to give you a call and liaise.

Big Society: Bye Foreign Secretary…. I’m always here… you know you can consult any time you wish….

***

Lawyer’s disclaimer! All, well some it,  entirely fictitious and made up… obviously.

Big Society, 15th May 1.05 pm: In the Diary Room with…Nick Clegg

Set in a pastiche of the well known TV programme  on Channel 4 ….. Big Brother… Charon, taking the part of ‘Big Society’,  talks to some of the key players in these game-changing times..

The plan is to write a series of short scripts and do a recorded programe – usually 5 minutes or so in length – covering the events of our times.  I’ll see how it goes.

The first recorded programme…

In The Diary Room with Nick Clegg.

The part of Big Society was played by Charon and Nick Clegg was played by Tim Kevan, author of BabyBarista

Listen to the programme (5:03 mins)

Script

Coming soon… In The Diary Room with Theresa May

Lawyer’s disclaimer! All entirely fictitious and made up… obviously.

Big Society House: 2:05pm – Theresa May is in The Diary Room

BIG SOCIETY HOUSE: 2.05 PM – THERESA MAY IS IN THE DIARY ROOM

PODCAST VERSION

Download the podcast

Script

(5.08 minutes)

The part of Big Society was played by Charon.  Natasha Phillips, author of the Divorce Manual blog

***

Big Society: Hello, Theresa.  How are you settling in?

May: Hello.  It’s tough, but I am tough and I will and can be tough when tough is needed.

Big Society: Do you like being at The Home Office?  You haven’t got much experience of Law & Order. Not really your field is it…you’re more of an equalities person aren’t you?  Let’s see… you voted against repealing section 28, voted against lowering the age of consent in homosexual relationships to 16, voted against gay adoption rights, voted against The Human Fertilization and Human Embryology Bill which would give lesbian couples the ability to receive fertility treatment .  Quite an impressive record for a Minister of the Crown holding an equalities portfolio…. can we expect this ‘Midas touch in reverse’ pattern to continue in your thinking at The Home Office…?

May: Well that was…. then… now is different…. we are in a game-changing coalition situation situation where the national interest takes precedence over personal interests… I want to be known as a “tough” Home Secretary. I think I am tough and willing to be tough when necessary,” she says. “I’m down to earth and that’s important. What I hope, in terms of me, is that people will be able to say she was tough but fair.

Big Society: Some of the crowd outside the Big Society House are asking if you and Chris Grayling are thinking of setting up a  Bed & Breakfast business together.  Are you?

May: That is a ridiculous question.  Dave said that people have to start looking up to politicians again and I am a very tough Home Secretary, so don’t get lippy with me…. I want RESPECT! And..another thing, people were surprised when I was made Home Secretary… let me say that there is no truth in the tweets on twitter that the old Tory grandees saw the words ‘Home’ and ‘Secretary’ and thought…’Ah…Give it to Theresa.. the one with the leopard skin kitten heels’.  No truth at all.

Big Society: Theresa, It can be very pressurised in The House… it is only Day 4… calm down. Have you got any sensible ideas which you wish to implement at the Home Office?

May: Yes, we want to create a climate where people can kill burglars in their own homes and tell yobs to ‘shut it’ without fear of being beaten up by them… in fact, we are going to enact a ‘Good Samaritan’ law so that ordinary members of the public can beat up young thugs, yobbos and benefit scroungers on the make without fear of prosecution.  We think this will make ordinary people feel much safer in their homes.

Big Society: Do you really think it is a good idea to empower people to ‘have a go’ themselves?  What if they do so, encouraged by the Home Office,  and get killed or injured in doing so?

May: Well, of course, we’re not suggesting that everyone will want to be a ‘Good Samaritan’ and beat up thugs, yobbos and benefit scroungers, but if they do and survive, we should reward them by not prosecuting them for murder or assault in our courts.  My plans will also reduce police costs and that is very much in the national interest.

Big Society: Yes…..how are your plans going to put more Police on the streets by cutting the police budgets?

May: We are going to reduce costs by cutting down on the evidence… sorry… paperwork….. that Police officers have to provide.  This means that there will be more of them on the streets than there are now with fewer policemen.  People will feel safer when they are out beating up thugs, yobbos and benefit scroungers.

Big Society: So your thinking is highly developed then?

May: I like to think so.  I am tough.  I can and will be tough.  We are going to empower people and control our Police better by replacing highly professional senior Police Chiefs with a rag bag of nutters voted for by the general public.  We saw how well the hung parliament worked when people got what they wanted… our game-changing Coalition… being able to choose their own local nutter to run their local Police force will empower people and get me off the hook, because I will be able to hold the people to account for not doing ‘their’ job.  Simples.  Tough love, would you not agree?  I’d better get back to The House…. I have to read a Nutshell book on Criminal law so I’ve got a vague idea about what I can and can’t repeal.  Nice talking to you..and… as Dixon of Dock Green used to say when people felt safe in their houses killing burglars… mind how you go.

Big Society: Bye, Theresa, You know you can come and talk to us any time you wish.

Lawyer’s disclaimer! All, well some it,  entirely fictitious and made up… obviously.

Big Society House: Day 3, 1:05pm – Nick Clegg is in The Diary Room

Big Society House,   Day 3, 1:05 pm – Nick Clegg is in The Diary Room

PODCAST VERSION

The part of Big Society was played by Charon and Nick Clegg was played by Tim Kevan, author of BabyBarista

Listen to the programme (5:03 mins)

Big Society: Hello Nick.  How are you settling in?

Clegg: Hello Big Society.  Well, we got off to a cracking start, apart from Vince telling The Times that he wasn’t that keen on the Coalition with the forces of darkness and preferred to cosy up to the Dark Lord. Oh, and I suppose it isn’t that helpful that we have probably irritated quite a lot of our members…. but in the national interest, and certainly mine, sacrifices have to be made.  The wheeze to ensure the coalition stays together and to keep us in power until 7th May by proposing a 55% majority to dissolve parliament hasn’t been that well received and it was unhelpful, almost unpatriotic some would say, for Charlie Falconer to refer to ‘zombie parliaments’ on Newsnight

Big Society: Are you feeling pressured?

Clegg: Good grief no.  I went to Westminster, born to rule and all that… they call us Old Wets, you know… we can hack anything.  As Giles Coren said only this morning in The Times, Old Etonians, or OEs as they are better known,  and Old Wets take this sort of thing in our stride.  It is expected of us… we wear our learning lightly, you know.  I wasn’t that happy with Giles telling everyone, however, that dear old George Gideon Osborne was cleverer than me and David, so I’d like to put it on record that St Paul’s is, as Giles so rightly described it, Grange Hill without the girls in a concrete building south of the river.  Enough said.

Big Society: Are you going to have enough to keep you busy?

Clegg: Good grief, yes.  Hang on…what do you mean?   Of course I am going to be busy, making speeches all over the country explaining why I sold my party and my principles down the river.  This will take a great deal of my time and is in the national interest.  We are at the start of a game-changing era.

Big Society: You haven’t got a department to run.  Don’t you feel a little bit marginalised?

Clegg: Good grief, No.  I am Lord President of The Council – I am sure I’ll find out what that means soon enough if I can get ten minutes with Dave – and I am, of course, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of reforming parliament.

Big Society: That’s going well, isn’t it?  Your Tory housemates are all delighted by that, delighted that you fell for it hook, line and sinker.  The crowd outside are baying for blood.  Do you think you’ll be the first to be evicted from The House? Does that trouble you?

Clegg: Good grief, No.  I’m an Old Wet.  I can handle anything… born to it. I’m very relaxed. It is time this country understood that we are in the midst of a hung parliament, a major financial crisis and that  tough love is needed.  The 55% majority  to ensure that we remain in power is in the national interest and is game-changingly game-changing. Between you and me, Big Society… I think Vince will be the first to jump ship… sorry, I mean.. be evicted from the House.

Big Society: If you don’t get evicted from the House before 2015, when are you going to start your election campaign to remind the country that there is a Liberal-Democratic party… or are you going to stay in bed with Dave forever..and become a Tory?

Clegg: Good grief, no.  ………….. Sorry, Big Society…. I can’t answer that question… hadn’t really thought that through…. I’d better talk to Dave and see what he thinks and come back to you… that is how Coalitions work in the national interest… Bye for now, Big Society…

Big Society: Bye, Nick… come back and speak to us anytime you like.

Lawyer’s disclaimer! All entirely fictitious and made up… obviously.

***

Lawcast 167: Carl Gardner on the 55% rule and the civil liberty reforms planed by the LibCons

You might like to listen to a podcast I did with Carl Gardner on the 55% rule and the Civil Liberty plans of the new LibCon axis of evil/paradise party…. you choose… you are the Kingmakers after all

Listen to the podcast



GO WEST… where the skies are blue!… TOGETHER

I’ve always enjoyed the version of GO WEST by The Pet Shop Boys…. delighted that it could not be more appropriate with the LibCon ‘Axis of Evil/Coalition’ (Delete to taste)… the YouTube Video is inspiring…

I really do not have to modify the words…  a perfect fit!

GO WEST Lyrics

Come on, come on, come on, come on

(Together) We will go our way
(Together) We will leave someday
(Together) Your hand in my hands
(Together) We will make our plans

(Together) We will fly so high
(Together) Tell all our friends goodbye
(Together) We will start life new
(Together) This is what we’ll do

(Go West) Life is peaceful there
(Go West) In the open air
(Go West) Where the skies are blue
(Go West) This is what we’re gonna do

(Go West, this is what we’re gonna do, Go West)

(Together) We will love the beach
(Together) We will learn and teach
(Together) Change our pace of life
(Together) We will work and strive

(I love you) I know you love me
(I want you) How could I disagree?
(So that’s why) I make no protest
(When you say) You will do the rest

(Go West) Life is peaceful there
(Go West) In the open air
(Go West) Baby you and me
(Go West) This is our destiny (Aah)

(Go West) Sun in wintertime
(Go West) We will do just fine
(Go West) Where the skies are blue
(Go West) this is what we’re gonna do

There where the air is free
We’ll be (We’ll be) what we want to be (Aah aah aah aah)
Now if we make a stand (Aah)
We’ll find (We’ll find) our promised land (Aah)

(I know that) There are many ways
(To live there) In the sun or shade
(Together) We will find a place
(To settle) Where there’s so much space

(Without rush) And the pace back east
(The hustling) Rustling just to feed
(I know I’m) Ready to leave too
(So that’s what) We are gonna do

(What we’re gonna do is
Go West) Life is peaceful there
(Go West) There in the open air
(Go West) Where the skies are blue
(Go West) This is what we’re gonna do

(Life is peaceful there)
Go West (In the open air)
Go West (Baby, you and me)
Go West (This is our destiny)

Come on, come on, come on, come on

(Go West) Sun in wintertime
(Go West) We will feel just fine
(Go West) Where the skies are blue
(Go West) This is what we’re gonna do

***

And when you have listened to GO WEST…


Why not try

Pet Shop Boys – It’s A Sin

Vid

I am looking forward to the Labour Leadership elections.  🙂

It doesn’t make me a bad person… quite the opposite.. but I have resolved to do more serious law analysis… about time… that I used my interest in law to FOCUS ?

And then…

Pet Shop Boys – What Have (We) Done To Deserve This?

God….  they must have been able to look into the future 🙂

Vid

Probably just as well that I am not going to be invited to do work with the Tories / Lib-Dems… am I bovvered?  Nah…

Have a great weekend

Charon

Rive Gauche: Ministerial Code broken already?, arses from elbows and Trafigura stuffing…..

Today I have been fairly productive – a bit of real work, a podcast on the civil liberty reforms and fixed parliament rules set out in the Coalition agreement with Carl Gardner and I have been shoehorning the word ‘game-changing’ into as many conversations as possible.  I even managed to say to a client that I would come up with some game-changing advice over the weekend. He seemed to appreciate it and expressed enthusiasm. He’s a good friend so he won’t mind my raising this on the blog.  In fact, I rather suspect he’ll get me back quickly with some other cliche.  I would not, ordinarily, discuss client or business matters!

A number of law bloggers and I plan to keep a very close watch on how well the new government implement their ambitious reforms.  They may not have the money, which would be understandable, but if they don’t, I am sure they will tell us.

Guido is on the ball with this…

Farm-Gate : Spelman’s Agri-Business, Bio-Tech Lobbying Past

On the campaign trail David Cameron said

“It is the next big scandal waiting to happen. It’s an issue that crosses party lines and has tainted our politics for too long, an issue that exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money.”

This week Cameron appointed Caroline Spelman to be the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.  Obviously he feels that nanny-gate is all water under the bridge. Spelman’s long history in agricultural politics and lobbying somehow makes her an ideal candidate for the job in his judgment.

Will Spelman be the first to break the Ministerial Code in record time?

Reading the Evening Standard this evening I saw a rather sad picture of the prime minister stuck in traffic. He has given up with the Police escort outriders.  I understand the need to show that savings are being made, but on a day when Stephen Timms was stabbed by a 21 year old woman in his constituency surgery, security is important – quite apart from the need for the PM to get about London quickly.  I can’t imagine any voters will begrudge him police outriders and I hope he re-instates them. The BBC report states that Timms’ injuries are not life threatening – but this is shocking.  We must ensure that MPs are given adequate protection – although, I suspect, that this stabbing could not have been predicted by anyone.  I wish Stephen Timms a speedy recovery.

Neuberger warning over judicial independence

Only one Master of the Rolls has been executed since the office was created in the 13th century but the job can still sometimes feel precarious, Lord Neuberger has suggested.  Interesting article.

College of Law royally buggers up its results:  RollonFriday arse from elbow award

Tut tut… Buggering up the results can happen to any law school… I know… I used to run BPP law School.  Admin goes awol sometimes – but why did the Criminal law tutor think it was a good idea to write an angry email to students warning them not to contact the press.

RollonFriday reports:  “A spokeswoman for the College said that they were very sorry for the delay and that the results were up by 1pm. She added that the email warning students not to contact the press was sent by a tutor in a personal capacity and was not sanctioned by the College.”  I can believe that!

Leigh Day charges £105 million (yes, £105,000,000) for Trafigura case

Normally a law firm would be subject to fat cattery ridicule/anger/vituperation for this eye watering claim – but I suspect in this case,  some will think it poetic justice given Trafigura’s antics earlier in the year with superinjunctions.  Good stuff… or should I say… good stuffing?!  (RollonFriday)

Lawcast 167: With Carl Gardner on the 55% dissolution rule and the civil liberties reforms set out in the LibCon Coalition Agreement

Today I am talking to Carl Gardner, ex government lawyer and author of the Head of Legal blog,  about the proposed fixed term parliament, the 55% dissolution rule and the reforms as set out in the Lib-Con Coalition agreement.

It is a wide ranging discussion and also examines the role of the new Lord Chancellor, Ken Clarke and the appointment of Dominic Grieve and Edward Gardner as Attorney-General and Solicitor-General respectively

(38 minutes)

Listen to the podcast

Law Review: The challenge facing our new government

To avoid over complicating the issue for the purposes of this brief post, let us keep definition of The Rule of Law simple

“A set of legal principles  providing the basis and foundation of a civilised, fair and democratic society.”

However you define the Rule of Law it is beyond doubt  that you cannot run any recognisable society without it – yet our system of law and justice is creaking, underfunded, under developed and is not really meeting the needs of all in society.  Nor, tellingly and worryingly, do all have access to law or justice.

The challenges to the new government in the legal sector are many and various – too many to mention in this brief piece – but I shall be returning to this theme consistently over the months ahead.

The new government hasn’t got off to a particularly good start with the proposal on Day One that parliament can only be dissolved if 55% of MPs say it can.  While I am happy with the idea of a fixed term parliament, the proposal that dissolution can only take place if 55% of MPs vote accordingly is pregnant with difficulty and could lead to oppression?  What if a minority government (should the Lib-Dems re-cross the floor)  lost a vote of confidence which fell short of 55%.  The government will, no doubt, address this – but in terms of PR,  the bald policy statement of itself does not fill one with confidence.

The Coalition agreement provides for a significant and wholesale reform of the law.

This will include:

  • A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill.
  • The scrapping of ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.
  • Outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.
  • The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.
  • Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database.
  • The protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury.
  • The restoration of rights to non-violent protest.
  • The review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech.
  • Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.
  • Further regulation of CCTV.
  • Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason.
  • A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.

We must not forget, of course, the planned reform of The House of Lords, electoral reform, the devolved powers to Scotland, wales, Northern Ireland, Banking reform and a host of other matters.

Turning to a number of specific problems… but just a few problems for this first analysis:

1. Funding: Already underfunded, the criminal and legal aid system is to be cut back still further.  There is little point in clarifying laws, repealing laws, preserving trial by jury, reviewing libel law et al if adequate provision is not made so that those in need can be assisted with fees for proper legal representation or be re-imbursed for costs should they be found not guilty.

2. Public knowledge: Access to law and legal knowledge does not, of course, always have to come through a qualified lawyer in person.  Much good work has been done by government in publishing law on the internet.  Much good work has been done by voluntary bodies and individuals in providing the public with high quality access to caselaw, analysis, law and legal materials over the internet.  This, hopefully will continue.   I was talking to Chris Kenny, Chief Executive of The Legal Services Board for a podcast for the College of Law Inside Track series.  Chris Kenny and I explored the possibility of an internet based legal knowledge base on the lines of NHS Direct.  Law is complex – but so is medicine and much value has been seen from NHS, why not for Law in the less complex areas?

3.  Over regulation: There have been well over 3000 new criminal laws in the last 13 years.  They say that there are over 24,000 new laws if one includes civil law.  Much of this law is necessary, but some of it is repressive and the present government has signalled a wholesale repeal of repressive legislation.  To signal is relatively straightforward – to do is quite another thing.  We shall see if they perform this promise.  I suspect that we will be disappointed, but I would be delighted to be proved wrong.  Government tends to develop a taste for power, control and regulation.  Civil liberties, say the cynics (and I include myself in this grouping – always) is for Opposition.

4. Access to law and legal advice: The Legal Services Act provides a base from which legal services may be delivered in imaginative and entrepreneurial ways.  Leaving aside the interests of the big law firms who do so little in terms of law affecting individuals in society and serve the interests of government, corporations and the banking world, primarily – what of areas of law affecting families, tenants, consumers, the poor, the ill, the injured, the libelled or recipient of libel claims?   I could go on.  Lawyers are not cheap, but they are not all expensive.  Perhaps the government could consider broadening the scope of legal knowledge provider beyond the formal barrister, solicitor, legal executive route to include funding for legal knowledge provider so people can look into their rights more clearly on the internet without, necessarily, having to resort to the skills and expense of a lawyer?  Our court system is creaking – much work needs to be done here.  Our prisons are over crowded, some say, with too many people who should not actually be in prison at all.

5.  Who have we got dealing with this?:  We have Ken Clarke QC MP  as secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor – an experienced man, but not always the cuddly liberal of television fireside chats on Newsnight.  Ken Clarke, described by former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer as an independent man, an independent thinker, will, I have no doubt, be able to talk with senior figures on the legal industry – but we must not forget that he is a Conservative, initially tempered on the forge of a Thatcher government, and he has had corporate interests in hedge funds and tobacco companies which may indicate that he has  a fair bit of work ahead to read into the very different world of law and society at grass roots, law centre and legal aid level.  I am happy to assume that he will do this.  He is, I am advised, that type of man, that type of thinker.  We shall see how liberal he in soon enough and, fortunately, many bloggers and analysts are watching.

We also have as Home Secretary, Theresa May, a woman untested thus far in the world of law and order in terms of direct experience.  Her appointment came as a bit of surprise and was certainly not predicted by any of the leading law journalists or political commentators.  Theresa May has a great deal of experience  – but it is fair to point out that she is not a known liberal.

She was against the repeal of Section 28 (it was eventually repealed in 2003).

Well we recognise that section 28 has caused offence to some people. What we’re looking for fundamentally is protection of children and certainly obviously we’re reviewing all our policies and we will look at the issue of section 28. And what we’ll be looking to ensure is that if repeal were proposed what would be put in its place because what we want to ensure at all times is protection of children. But of course there are issues that people have rightly raised about the fact that section 28 concentrates on education and local authorities, there are – literally being produced by health authorities for example.

Well I think at the time it was necessary in order to address a particular problem that had arisen. Now some years on there is a question as to whether it’s the right way to ensure the protection of children. We’ll be looking at that but what is fundamental to what we want to do is that issue of the protection of children.

Theresa May on  Section 28.

You may draw your own conclusions as to what Theresa May meant those few years ago.  Some interpreted her remarks as insulting and homophobic. I understand that Theresa May also has responsibility for Equality.  The Home office has been a graveyard for many – perhaps the next victim will weather the storm of a department described by Dr John Reid as ‘not fit for purpose’?  I certainly hope so.  Let us hope that she has the intellect, energy and broad eye needed to do a very difficult job. One thing in her favour – she was quite happy to tell her political colleagues that people regarded her party as the ‘nasty party’, so she is no shrinking violet or old style Tory on that front.

Early days, many problems – we shall soon find out whether the government of LibCons is up to the mark – and it is entirely right that we should be watching closely.  Even The Sun would agree with that – because they also plan to watch carefully!

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You may, of course, buy some excellent books on the law, human rights and civil liberties from my favourite law bookshop!  Wildy & Sons!

Law Review: Ken Clarke appointed Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor

Ken Clarke  has been appointed Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor. Ken Clarke was a lawyer, he has kept in touch at his Inn (Gray’s, where he is a bencher) and gets a resounding endorsement from former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer.  Clarke could be good news for, law, the rule of law and for  lawyers.

Clarke is known for his independence – affirmed by Charlie Falconer on the BBC this morning.  Clarke has, of course, had experience of the law and order brief when he was Home Secretary.  Will he be liberal?

This interesting BBC report from 2006 is worth reading again…

Former Conservative Chancellor Ken Clarke has said David Cameron’s plans for a British Bill of Rights are “xenophobic and legal nonsense”….Mr Clarke said the Tory leader would find it difficult to find lawyers who would agree with his plan to replace the Human Rights Act with the new Bill.

With law bloggers Carl Gardner (Head of Legal blog) and Jack of Kent I plan to keep a very close watch on the Justice Ministry and, of course, The Home Office now headed by Theresa May.

Also of considerable interest, given the new coalition is The Freedom Bill. The coalition could well prove to be a moderating influence and a new era for lawyers given plans to repeal a number of repressive new Labour laws.  There is also a commitment to scrap ID cards.

It is just a pity, for those of a Labour disposition, that it will take a Tory-Lib coalition to undo what Labour has done or planned to do.  Hopefully Labour, in opposition, will note that civil liberties are far more important to most people than the minutiae of dogma and policy. Hopefully, the cuts to the legal aid budget will not be too vicious – it costs money to have a rule of law and justice system worthy of Britain.

I return now to my daily detailed Law Reviews…. not before time, some might say? I shall, of course, continue to watch the vagaries and absurdities of political and life generally… but there will be a lot more law from now on – as evidenced by my podcast with Jack of Kent below.


CIVIL LIBERTIES REFORM FROM COALITION AGREEMENT


10. Civil liberties

The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion.

The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion.

This will include:

  • A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill.
  • The scrapping of ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.
  • Outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.
  • The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.
  • Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database.
  • The protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury.
  • The restoration of rights to non-violent protest.
  • The review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech.
  • Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.
  • Further regulation of CCTV.
  • Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason.
  • A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.

Seems to be based substantially on the Freedom Bill. It will be interesting to see how this shapes up and how quickly it will come through.

Download the Coalition Agreement

ID CARDS TO BE SCRAPPED

Home Office:

Both Parties that now form the new Government stated in their manifestos that they will cancel Identity Cards and the National Identity Register. We will announce in due course how this will be achieved. Applications can continue to be made for ID cards but we would advise anyone thinking of applying to wait for further announcements.

Until Parliament agrees otherwise, identity cards remain valid and as such can still be used as an identity document and for travel within Europe. We will update you with further information as soon as we have it.

Lawcast 166: Law blogger Jack of Kent on the Paul Chambers Twitter bomb tweet

Today I am talking to the blogger Jack of Kent about the extraordinary decision in the case of Paul Chambers, a young trainee accountant, who  posted a ‘bomb’ message on Twitter. The message was “Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!” This was in response to a news feed that he had just received that the airport was closed due to the weather conditions prevailing at that time.

Paul Chambers was arrested and questioned on suspicion for the “bomb hoax” offence under the Criminal Law Act 1977.
The CPS realised that they did not have sufficient evidence for the bomb hoax offence under the 1977 Act, that is the actual legislation dealing with supposed bomb hoaxes….and as Jack of Kent said on his blog…. “So some bright spark came up with section 127 of the Communications Act 2003”…. a provision which the CPS actually sees as not requiring any evidence of intention.

Listen to the podcast

Jack of Kent: Paul Chambers: a Disgraceful and Illiberal Judgment

F**kART: GREEN! – A study in perception

Green! (2010)
Charon after a drink period
Spray can paint on board, matches, a cigarette and a box on board
Charon

On this day… when Britain had a change of  prime minister and government, I amused myself with creating a ‘painting’… well.. more of a collage.  It is, as with all my paintings, complete nonsense, but reflects attitudes to size and the importance and perception of size.  Is it a big box of fags (cigarettes.. not some unusual creature at Eton)  or a very small box of matches? Well… a bit like the Lib-Dems, sometimes… size really does not matter.

I rather enjoyed calling today’s ‘painting’ – Green! I am, of course, as a professional smoker…very green.  I am sure there will be many in this green and sceptred isle of ours who are green with envy that their party is no longer in power.  I’m not – see below.

I plan to sell it and finance my FREE resource materials on Insite Law for students  with the proceeds!  It is ‘signed’  🙂

Return of the Cybermen?….

It gave me an absurd, almost surreal, amount of pleasure to read The Times leader this morning over a strong black coffee and learn that the current vice-president of the Lib-Dem  federal executive  is Brian Orrell, who used to play a cyberman in Dr Who.  I think Tom Harris MP, a noted Dr Who fan who  was direct and to the point on Newsnight in his opposition to a Lib-Dem pact,  may enjoy this irony.  It is also worth reading this very clear statement of why he will not support a Lib-Lab coalition. I suspect he is not the only Labour (or Liberal) MP.

Not that it is of any importance whatsoever, like so many of our votes, but I voted Labour knowing that  Labour would lose the election.  I did not vote for fudge and dithering.  If I wanted fudge and dithering, I would have voted Lib-Dem.

For my own part, I feel that the Tories have the moral right to govern; whether in a minority government or under even greater strain, perhaps – given recent Lib-Dem dithering –  with their new ‘fiends’ (sic).  I would like to see Labour in opposition, to regroup;  but more important, to re-think their attitude to the United States and Europe and a wider world, to war, to oppressive and largely unnecessary laws, to re-think their role as regulators of society and return to the primary ideals of Labour – providing a strong foundation for a fairer society.  I have been as critical of Labour over their erosion of civil liberties as I was when the Tories ruled.  Civil liberties and personal freedoms mean a lot more to most people than the minutiae of political correctness and dogma.    No fan of Mr Brown ‘qua’ prime minister, I am more than content to take him at his word and see him go on to do good things with charities and public service.  Brown has been a very unpopular prime minister, not least, I suspect, because of his simmering desire to get his hands on the top job all those years ago, not least, in the public mind, because of a suspicion that he held back on supporting the military and his handling of the economy, which some say, had good and bad elements.  I am also more than happy to separate the man from the politician and have no doubt that he is, as many portray him to be, a kind hearted man of integrity in his private life.    Those who are not privy to the Westminster bubble can only go on reports and his public words and acts while Chancellor and Prime Minister and judge accordingly – and he has been judged. This, he accepted yesterday.

I do not want to see a Rainbow coalition of Labour, the Lib-Dems and the ramshackle rag bag of celtic politicians who will only be interested in their own sectional interests and who will, inevitably , seek to push the needs of their constituents before the national interest.  There isn’t any crock of gold at the end of real rainbows and there certainly isn’t with a rainbow coalition – even if, as Ian Parker Joseph suggested on Twitter, that is because Brown sold our gold all those years ago.

Let the Tories govern – as the largest party – and see how long they survive. If politicans play vested interests with their proposals, this will be seen by the electorate – there are a lot of  journalists and political bloggers watching – and they will  enjoy the reward or pay the price at the next election – which will not be long in coming if things don’t work out.  Far better that than a fudge controlled by Lib-Dems who may now be revealing themselves as not fit to govern because of the disparity of their philosophies and lack of preparedness for government.

And so… a bit of law in my next post….

F**kART Returns!: Nokiaman won the election

The final pic in the election series. I do drafts first on paper before painting sometimes.  Here is a draft… not painted yet… may never be.  There are two others – painted in acrylics and spray can paint!  Obviously – all three are modelled on artwork done by the real artists who create these wonderful superhero characters.  Mine are poor imitations – but kept me amused over the weekend.  Nokiaman… just had to be red.

Postcard from The Staterooms in Tory Battersea: Anyone for a hanging edition

Dear Reader,

I write to you from Battersea  which fell to the Tories in the early hours of Friday morning.  I won’t rehearse or analyse the election, or proselytise about politics for much longer – a return to writing about law is long overdue – but two things did occur to me as I had breakfast in Battersea Square this morning:  The BNP might have lost every parliamentary and Council seat they contested but they did manage to rack up 500,000 votes according to the Times (Page 19 ‘Griffin under fire from own side as party rejected’).  This means that there are 500,000 pantomime fascists living in this multi-cultural and politically correct isle of hours.  That’s quite a thought.

I don’t actually know any panto-BNP voting fascists, but I did come across two while waiting for the 170 bus to take me to Victoria railway station the other morning.  They were talking about immigrants – inevitably – and bemoaning the lack of strong government.  One of them even cited Churchill’s fight them on the beaches speech fairly accurately.  There was much nodding between the two of them.  They reminded me of Alf Garnett.   The only difference was that they were both women.

The other thing which struck me this morning, now fully recovered after nearly 48 hours with but an hour of sleep, was that it is clear the electorate having had a look at Clegg and the Lib-Dems, decided to have a second look at their slightly ‘iffy’ position on immigration and Trident and decided to stick with the devil they knew.  It is ironic that a party which only managed to get 57 seats (actually losing five from the 2005 position) and only 23% of the vote should now have so much power.  Right… having lit the blue touch paper, I shall retire to a safe distance and move on to other things other than to say that the politicians probably only have until 7.00 am on Monday morning to get ‘their shit together’ before the markets dispassionately dissect their efforts over the weekend – at least, this is the received wisdom.

I thought The Sun headline (above) about a 59 year old man holed up in house was one of their best in the entire election campaign period.  This is why I have ‘nicked it’ unashamedly for those of you who don’t read this national treasure.

I will end this selection with a quote from Guido Fawkes’ blog post: Let Sunlight into the Backrooms

A system where deals are stitched up in backrooms by politicians without reference to voters is not much of a democracy.

General Election 2010: Gordon Brown launched telephone ‘rant’ at Nick Clegg

Telegraph: Gordon Brown launched a “diatribe” and a “rant” at Nick Clegg during a telephone call with the Liberal Democrat leader after it was suggested he should resign, it was reported today.

Thoroughly enjoyed the election coverage, although I think I may have overdone the lack of sleep with just an hour and a half in 38 hours.  The bottle count was satisfactory rather than exceptional – but there wasn’t a great deal to celebrate apart from Jacqui Smith losing her seat.  I was not a fan of that particular Home Secretary, despite my Labour tendencies.  Perhaps she could get a job driving  SERCO prison vans?

Moving on.  I am a fan of the surreal. This may be evident from some of my blog posts and one of my friends on twitter –  @infobunny – is a mistress of the art.  After a brief foray into painting, Infobunny has started taking photographs, using some wonderful old cameras and ‘film’.  She has a good eye and some of the serious pictures are of a very high standard.  The picture to the right made me laugh out loud, so much so that I could have been on another  trip to PC World  after nearly spitting wine all over the keyboard of my new iMac.  Infobunny drinks GINS and CIDERS –  this is excellent… in my book.

I am seated at my desk by the window at The Staterooms. I am, literally, on the river front and I can see many things. An Eights boat has just gone by with a man in a motorboat alongside shouting at the oarsmen through a megaphone. Is he shouting “Faster…Faster… or there will five more years of Gordon Brown” ? No, sadly – but in my mind, he is.

I can see a Cormorant flapping its wings to dry them and four ducks are looking up at me in a rather menacing fashion. The cormorant, I suspect – this being Battersea, is a Tory cormorant.  I would imagine it is thinking about finding a Lib-Dem cormorant to talk to. The ducks are most definitely Labour ducks… Brownites, which is why they are looking up at me in a menacing fashion.  If they were Blairite ducks, we’d be having lunch together on the river front discussing the re-structuring of the Labour Party post Brown.

I have made a decision that wherever I live in future it will have to be by water.  I used to live on a boat across the river at Cheyne Walk and then went down to the Medway.  Water is good…. sea or a sea loch may be even better.  I am looking at the practicalities of spending six months in the land of my ancestors – Scotland.  Loch Fyne?  Arran?  I am investigating.  It no longer matters where I live.  I can do what I do from anywhere with broadband, which is quite liberating.

A friend of mine @Bureauista sent me this via twitter and told me that she had been leafing through old magazines and thought of me when she saw it.  I thought I would share it with you.

I am, as regular readers know, a 30 a day Dan in Smokedo (The Art of Exercising while smoking). I can quite see how the game of golf could be markedly improved by smoking a cigar while playing it.

Well… on that note…. as nothing will happen in terms of removal vans arriving in Downing Street until tomorrow at the earliest (they say) – I am going to have a quick kip.

Best, as ever

Charon

Rive Gauche: From Tory Battersea

In the early hours of Friday morning, as Brillo was interviewing a motley crew of celebrities with absolutely nothing to add by way of illumination to the extraordinary events unfolding,  Battersea fell to the Tories and I found myself once again living in a part of London with a Tory MP.

I enjoyed the election coverage, as I suspect did all who watched it, and it has been a real pleasure to tweet with politically minded twitter users, read the views of political bloggers and do podcasts with people who do know what they are talking about on politics.  But now – the party is over… and it is no longer time for change… but, to use a phrase from the campaign.. time to get real?

This weekend I may do some painting…. time for F**kart 2010.

Podcast: 20 minutes with Ian Parker-Joseph

Today I am talking to Ian Parker-Joseph former leader of the Libertarian Party UK and now a keen supporter of the Albion Alliance. We explore libertarian ideals, the Albion Alliance and look back over the campaign and consider what lies ahead.a

This is the last in my series of election political podcasts….

Listen to the podcast

Ian Parker-Joseph’s blog

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Emily Nomates, Editor of Guy News | Tom Harris MP | Iain Dale, Blogger and pundit | Tom Williams | Carl Gardner | The Great Ignored

Geoffrey Woolard PPC for Cambridgeshire South East

Old Holborn

I had The Sun cabbie in the front of my cab…asking questions

In recent weeks, The Sun has had a ‘real life’ cab driver interviewing the leading politicians.  The cabbie starts by saying that he is a floating voter and asks the politicians what they offer to a voter like him.  I thought I would join in…

Below is a transcript….

Charon: Good morning…El Vino’s on Fleet Street, please

Cabbie: You what?

Charon: El Vino’s, Fleet Street.. it is a wine drinking establishment.. a place where topers can take the pleasures of the vine with other like minded people… a bit like Parliament, in a way.

Cabbie: I’m a floating voter… what are your thoughts on the election.

Charon: I’m a floating drinker myself… there is just so much choice… the Reds suit my tastes more these days.

Cabbie: So you’re a Labour man then?

Charon: Haven’t done any labouring for thirty-five  years… not since I paid my way through law school digging graves

Cabbie: You what?

Charon: Yes… dug graves while I was at law school… used to take my spade to tutorials.

Cabbie: I had that Clegg in the back of my cab yesterday…but he hasn’t got what it takes, Nick hasn’t got what Cam has

Charon: Hasn’t got what that it takes, hasn’t got a cab….?  ah… got you… Taking & Driving Away…. criminal offence, you know… so he tried to nick your cab?  Good grief… what is the world coming to…still, I suppose that in these difficult days he had to get to his next gig somehow…

Cabbie: You what?  No… he didn’t try to nick my cab… he hasn’t got what it takes….

Charon: I saw in The Sun that George Osborne was driving your cab…. I wouldn’t have thought he would have had to nick a cab…. easy enough for him to call a rickshaw from CCHQ,  he is Shadow Chancellor after all.

Cabbie: You what? Look… the country is in a mess… what are you going to do about it?

Charon: It’s not my fault the country is in a mess… I do my best to prop up the coffers… by smoking excessively, drinking to an acceptable degree of lack of moderation…. and I’ll probably die young and save the Treasury a lot of money by not going completely gaga in a residential care home.

Cabbie: What plans have you to reduce the deficit?

Charon: I bet you say that to all the boys!  OK… since you ask… I’d do this… I’d sack as many civil servants as I could find doing nothing of value, get rid of PCSOs, fire managers in the NHS, save for those who are absolutely essential, tear up all the rules and regulations which inhibit new businesses, cut out this nonsense on everyone performing to targets, stop police wasting police time on form filling, repeal the smoking ban for pubs who don’t wish to pretend they are gastropubs or who are prepared to open smoking only rooms – this would improve the pub sector, raise more revenue for the Treasury and make Britain a happier place –  tear up ID card plans, make Trident last a few years longer until we have the money to actually pay for it, or get the Yanks to help us as a payback for all the help we give them with their PR fuck ups, fire non-essential staff in the town halls, close down all the quangos and let the civil service and ministers think for themselves with existing resources, reduce taxes on top earners so that they feel encouraged to go out an earn more, which we can then tax normally,  raise VAT on luxury goods, reduce VAT on staples, encourage the private sector to sponsor education –  they, after all, are the recipients of the graduates in finance, accountancy, law, engineering etc etc etc,increase stamp duty on houses over £250,000 – people can move to a better house when they and the country can afford it, and encourage nuclear power and green power before the lights go out.  I’d also  tax all organisations providing private education… I’m happy that these institutions provide private education but it would be fair to plough some of their profits back into the state sector so we can improve education for all  – and, of course, I’d have a look at waste..  but everyone says that…. and finally… I’d repeal useless laws, reduce sentences, try and find other ways of dealing with minor offenders other than jail, stop nanny knows best interference in people’s lives, tear up a fair number of health and safety laws and legalise drugs…. which may well have the effect of reducing crime… if people want to stuff plant food up their noses, why should we pay vast amounts of money to stop them doing it, then try them, and then pay for their accommodation inside.. complete waste of money… let the police get on with rather more serious matters….let people take charge of their own lives on dangerous activities and take the consequences when they do.

Cabbie: Bloody hell… Guv… you should get a knighthood for all that!

Charon: Thank you… but I’m only interested in honours I can get by bribery, award myself  or buy on the internet…. how much do I owe you…? we seem to have arrived

Cabbie: On me, Guv

Charon: Really?  No… I could not possibly accept… that would not be a socialist thing to do… we all have to make a living…just all well I have absolutely no interest in being a politician… you can thank me for the ride, should you ever need legal advice…as I suspect you were expecting someone else to get in… another time… Bye!

Cabbie: You what?

Verdict from the Cab

The guy was barking…calls himself a socialist… don’t make me larf!

Law Review: Judge rejects ‘irrational’ idea that Christianity deserves special protection from law and other matters

Judge rejects ‘irrational’ idea that Christianity deserves special protection from law

The Times reports: Christianity deserves no protection in law above other faiths and to do so would be “irrational, divisive, capricious and arbitrary”, a senior judge said yesterday. In the latest clash between the judiciary and Christian believers Lord Justice Laws said that laws could not be used to protect one religion above another…… To give one religion legal protection over any other, “however long its tradition, however rich its culture, is deeply unprincipled”, the judge said. It would give legal force to a subjective opinion and would lead to a “theocracy”.

Lord Justice Laws said: “We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs. The precepts of any one religion — any belief system — cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other. If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic.”

Of perhaps greater interest are the remarks of former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey: “It is, of course, but a short step from the dismissal of a sincere Christian from employment to a religious bar to any employment by Christians. I believe that further judicial decisions are likely to end up at this point and this is why I believe it is necessary to intervene now.”

This rather emotive and ill thought out statement deserves little attention – but Lord Justice Laws felt that it needed to be addressed.  The Times noted: “Lord Justice Laws said that Lord Carey appeared to be arguing that the courts ought to be ready to uphold and defend Christian beliefs. But the judge drew a distinction “between the law’s protection of the right to hold and express a belief and the law’s protection of that belief’s substance or content”.

I agree.  I cannot see any justification whatsoever for allowing religious belief – which not all share, let alone share the same religious beliefs – to have any sway in the administration of our laws and while religion may once have played a part in providing a rationale or foundation for law, this is not the case today in an increasingly secular and multi-cultural Britain. The law may be imperfect but it at least has the merit of being imperfectly rational and based, largely, on identifiable and objectively determinable constructs.

Read the judgment: McFarlane v Relate Avon Limited [2010] EWCA Civ B1

Tribunal rejects financier’s £4m harassment claim

The Times: A high-flying financier who accused her boss of sexual harassment, bringing prostitutes to business meetings and trying to have her killed by Russian hitmen has had her £4 million compensation claim dismissed by an employment tribunal

How coroners have become the public voice of grieving relatives

Times: “The hearing for two soldiers killed in Afghanistan will provide some comfort for bereaved relatives. The comments by David Ridley, coroner at Wiltshire Coroners’ Court, come just two days after the assistant deputy coroner for Wiltshire and Swindon, David Masters, castigated US authorities’ failure to cooperate in an investigation into the “friendly fire” deaths of three British soldiers. Such criticisms have become almost commonplace in coroners’ inquests. Coroners were once low-profile members of the legal establishment who occasionally voiced concerns. Now they are becoming increasingly vocal, assuming responsibilities as if they were chairmen of public inquiries — often because there is no such inquiry.”

Modern politicians ‘as ego driven’ as the Romans

This short discussion between a professor of classics and Boris Johnson is rather good,

Terror suspects’ wives win European court ruling on state handouts

Times: Curbs on state handouts to wives of terrorist suspects were ruled illegal yesterday by European judges and may have to be relaxed. The European Court of Justice ruled that Britain was wrong to restrict social security payments to the wives of three men on a list of people with alleged links to al-Qaeda, the Taleban and Osama bin Laden.

John Bolch, Family Lore: Anatomy of a Divorce – Part 3: An Admission

Prof John Flood RATs: How Do Law Professors Grade Exams?

At this time of year the law school likes to put out a public information video so that students can understand and appreciate the trials of exam grading. Please watch and learn.

Blawg Review #262

Public Intellectual is the host this week

The White Rabbit has been hopping about London. I know this.  I had drinks with him t’other evening and most enjoyable it was. Shine Eye Gal. and Malbeck

Simon Myerson QC says VOTE – I couldn’t agree more…. he writes: “Vote. For two reasons. Firstly because, as aspiring barristers in a country where Parliament is sovereign, a certain interest in the makeup of the legislature is important.

Secondly, because the rule of law is a critical component of any civilized society. We cannot guarantee to get it right, but we can guarantee that everyone is treated equally. In this election, one party is standing which is not committed to the rule of law. The British National Party would not treat everybody in the same way under the law, and would write laws which discriminated between people on the basis of their race or colour. If you vote, the share of the vote which the BNP gets goes down (assuming you don’t vote for them of course). That, in turn, makes an important statement about how repellent fascism is…..”

Carl Gardner, author of the Head of Legal blog, writing on an issue of electoral law and the prospect that Labour Twitter Tzar, Kerry McCarthy who is standing as a a candidate again may have broken the law, says:   Kerry McCarthy is innocent!

The election will soon be over – and I shall return to more detailed legal analysis. I have enjoyed a month of doing my best to parody the absurdities of the campaign – but whoever comes to power this Friday, it will irritate a very significant part of the population and cuts are coming.

AND FINALLY… this excellent post from AlJahom…. do read it….

The first rule of tax club

Filed under: Bully State,WTF? — Al Jahom @ 9:12 am

… is you do not talk about tax club.

This, from Big Brother Watch is just breath-taking:

Fined for talking about tax

This morning the Daily Mail has covered a very worrying story about changes to the law which effectively make it a criminal act to dispense tax advice. The woman behind the story – Anne Redston, a Visiting Professor in tax law at King’s College London – has written the following blogpost exclusively for Big Brother Watch……

Podcast: 20 Minutes with Old Holborn4MP – PPC for Cambridge

Today I am talking to well known  political blogger Old Holborn who says on his blog… “There are 60 million of us but only 646 of them….” I’ve read Old Holborn’s blog for some time – he has some strong views and now he wants to become one of the 646 in parliament and be the only MP to wear a Guy Fawkes mask and represent his constituents anonymously as an Independent.

We talk about Old Holborn’s reasons for wanting to enter Parliament, how he will represent his constituents if elected and we then move to the wider issues of the day – the leader debates, democracy, the economy, hung parliament et al.

Listen to the podcast

Old Holborn’s blog

Old Holborn4MP

Other Podcasts in the series

Emily Nomates, Editor of Guy News | Tom Harris MP | Iain Dale, Blogger and pundit | Tom Williams | Carl Gardner | The Great Ignored

Geoffrey Woolard PPC for Cambridgeshire South East

Postcard from the Staterooms-On-Thames: Westminister edition

It being a Bank holiday, I thought I would leave my weekly postcard until the holiday Monday – in any event, I was out having an enjoyable lunch yesterday – and this being the last weekend (mercifully) before the election, it has to come from Westminster…. but a short walk up the road from here if one is inclined to walk, which I wasn’t.

I plan to return to writing about law on a daily basis from tomorrow but I have no doubt, in the final days of the campaign, there will be something to parody or amuse myself with.

The Times, newly converted to Cameron’s vision of a Big Society and coming out the for the Conservatives along with sister newspaper The News of the World – wonderfully surreal pairing of newspapers – cautions Cameron against revealing too much about his plans in the first days of government lest the fickle British voter (I include myself as such in this election) decides that schadenfreude is a dish best eaten any time and pulls back from marking the ballot paper with a cross and decides to draw a phallus all over the ballot paper instead.  I am not bang up to date on my election law,  but I assume that it would still be a valid vote if one were to draw a phallus in the box to indicate a vote? – the key being to make one’s wish clear with a mark in the appropriate box.  I shall ask my learned friend Mr Carl Gardner for his opinion on this matter.  I have designed a diagram to assist.

In the meantime I am pleased to be able to give you the benefit of this extraordinary public information film which indicates that any mark is acceptable.   The film is worth a watch if only to see how not to make a public information film!

This election has been fascinating, certainly the most interesting I have experienced in 50+ years. We have had Chris Grayling reprising Basil Fawlty by advising Bed & Breakfast owners that they should not need to take in gays.  Yesterday, not to be outdone,  we had reports of Philippa Stroud exorcising demons and curing people of their homosexuality through prayer – a story which may or may not have legs.  We had Bigotgate, where Gordon Brown revealed his famous temper and scorn, calling a faithful Labour voter a ‘bigot’ when he thought he was no longer being recorded.  We’ve had various Prospective Parliamentary Candidates having to stand down for unfortunate remarks on twitter and elsewhere.  We’ve had leader debates and a remarkable, but possibly now waning, surge in support for the Lib-Dems.  I did meet an interesting guy smoking outside the pub on Saturday night….

For my part – as I am not remotely interested in how other people cast their vote, for that is their business, I have enjoyed the humour, some of it even intended, on twitter and the astonishing urgency of twitterers punting the party line with the enthusiasm of a fellatrix on double time and a long queue.

I take a raw, almost visceral, pleasure in the fact that Cameron,  who had a 20 point lead,  is now struggling to get clear blue water between his ‘New Conservatives in wolves clothing’ and the competition.  This should have been an election with an open goal.  Friday could see the departure of two leaders – Gordon Brown and David Cameron if the Tories cannot form a government.  Hopefully, there are ‘dark forces’ working in the wings to ensure that there is a bus service to Fife on Friday morning so that McDoom can be returned to sender and fresh thinking is brought into the Labour Party.  If Miliband becomes leader, Lord Mandelson could yet fulfill his naked ambition to be Foreign Secretary, with Clegg as Home  Secretary and Darling and Cable fudging some form of job share over at the Treasury?  How the Tories would squeal if that were to come to pass. I can’t see a minority Conservative administration lasting long and, in any event, is there not a matter of convention whereby an incumbent party is invited to form a government first in the event of a hung parliament?

Election 2010: Which leader’s public persona do you prefer?

At least Gordon Brown’s act is almost admirably crap – you can see something awkwardly human beneath – Charlie Brooker

I rather enjoyed Charlie Brooker’s piece in the Guardian today.

As it happens… I had been wondering why we hadn’t seen much of Osbore. I was delighted to see in the Sun this morning that he has been doing something useful with his time.

The Election, coupled with the easter vacation for lawyer and the courts,  has also given me an opportunity to taste some good inexpsnive wines.  Some of them have been so good that I have started to entertain unusual thoughts….

And on that note, I suppose I should get on with some law writing. This is supposed to be a law blog, after all…  whatever you wishes, I do hope you enjoy the election.  Next week, of course… it could be the same old shit, just a different cast.

Best, as always

Charon

Podcast: 20 Minutes with Geoffrey Woollard Independent PPC for Cambridgeshire South East

Today I am talking to Geoffrey Woollard, Independent PPC for Cambridgeshire South East. We discuss why the Labour candidate had to stand down, what Geoffrey can do for Cambridgeshire South  East and ‘substance rather than form’.  We look at the electoral campaign and his vision for the future of Parliament.

Listen to the podcast

Geoffrey Woollard’s website

***

Other Podcast in the series

Emily Nomates, Editor of Guy News | Tom Harris MP | Iain Dale, Blogger and pundit | Tom Williams

| Carl Gardner | The Great Ignored

Not happy being gay? Don’t worry. The Tories will sort you out

This extraordinary story in The Observer is a must read…

Rising Tory star Philippa Stroud ran prayer sessions to ‘cure’ gay people

Conservative high-flyer Philippa Stroud founded a church that tried to ‘cure’ homosexuals by driving out their ‘demons

We are DOOMED, DOOMED I tell ya!

LATEST Sunday evening: I read on twitter that Stroud story may be wrong – TV stations don’t want to cover it!  We shall see.

UPDATE:  Iain Dale says…

An Easy Target?

I enjoy reading Iain Dale’s blog.  He was quick to condemn Chris Grayling over the B&B issue.  Iain may push a conservative line hard at times – why not, he is a Tory?  But, he is also an objective commentator so his views are worth a look.