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