Britain’s new government

by Chris Bertram on May 13, 2015

Within less than a week of coming to power, the new British government has made financial threats or legislative proposals with the following effects:

In a rather chilling turn of phrase, the Prime Minister tells us (by way of explanation):

“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.”

By my rough estimate, the party making these proposals has the positive support of around 22% of the adults subject to coercive state power who are resident on the territory. This was the party that used to go on about the perils of “elective dictatorship”. So it goes.

{ 105 comments }

1

Branko Collin 05.13.15 at 6:24 am

Oh, get over it! In 2011 a whopping 68% of the Brits voted in favour of the current voting system in a referendum. That means the vast majority of them support the system that got the current government in the saddle. To suggest there is something wrong with a government because only a fraction of all Brits voted for it is disingeneous.

2

Brett 05.13.15 at 6:30 am

@Branko Collin

Ah, go easy on them. They’re still in shock and mourning over the fact that the voters returned the Conservatives to another 5 years of power, whether or not Cameron is PM during that time period.

That said, the government is moving quickly on things, and not necessarily in a good way.

3

Pat 05.13.15 at 6:43 am

Hmm. According to Branko Collin (which of course is ‘Nilloc O’Kranb” spelled backwards), a majority of people voted for a system in which a minority of electors can choose the government; therefore, minoritarianism is fine, because of… majoritarianism? Or perhaps it’s just that the majority voted for, before, the government they couldn’t before they voted not for, now, the government they could not be for?

Either way, I think I liked it better in the original. “People can come up with statistics to prove anything. Fourteen percent of people know that.”

4

Chris Bertram 05.13.15 at 6:48 am

In my view, most of the measures proposed would not be morally permissible for a liberal and democratic society even if a clear majority of the population voted for them, so set aside that consideration if you like.

5

Joe Perry 05.13.15 at 6:49 am

Branko Collin: actually about 30% of British voters voted for the current system, in a campaign that was systematically misleading in many respects.

6

JPL 05.13.15 at 7:28 am

Chris @9: Yes. Thank you very much.

That’s why I would be willing to elevate the following principle to the status of a Kantian categorical imperative: In any democratic system, where you have plutocratic interests making, through their party, populist appeals to ethnic nationalist fears and resentments, the main function of voting should be to keep out that party. “Keep out the right- wingers.” And everyone should be open about the fact that support for such a party is ethically indefensible. I realize this statement needs clarification and unfolding of implications, but basically something like that seems needed at this point. At least Bernie Sanders is running as a Democrat and not pulling a Nader.

7

Daragh McDowell 05.13.15 at 7:36 am

Chris – while I share your concerns about virtually all of these new measures, I think there’s a hyperbole problem in how you describe them. I don’t think it’s (entirely) fair to characterise the anti-extremism laws, however loathsome they may be, as ‘criminalizing dissent’ or the umpteenth Tory scrap with the BBC as a wholesale attack on independent journalism. Again – I’m on your side here, and find all this legislation really disturbing, but it’s important now that the Tories have a slender majority to mobilise public opinion against them so that passing these laws becomes that much more difficult, and their repeal that much more likely.

As an aside – I trust there’s no longer any reason to point out why having the Liberal Democrats around to put a brake on the most authoritarian instincts of the Conservatives was a good thing…

8

Phil 05.13.15 at 7:57 am

Also (gosh, a red herring in the very first comment!) we didn’t have a referendum to approve the current system but to replace it with a specific alternative – one which isn’t proportional either, and might well have given us an even more skewed result.

Perhaps the LDs in power would have stopped some of this happening, but frankly I’m not convinced. Like Miliband, Clegg was running very strongly on a small set of key ‘pledges’, which he cited in particular when he was called out on previous broken promises (I treasure the argument that, while opposition to student fees was in the party’s 2010 manifesto, it wasn’t on the first page – damn, we should have spotted that!). Is there anything about freedom of the press, freedom of association, freedom of speech, access to justice or the rule of law in the 2015 “red lines“? (Or anything recognisably ‘liberal’?) No – not a thing.

9

Daragh McDowell 05.13.15 at 8:13 am

Phil – no, there wasn’t. But given the ideological basis of the party, and the fact that it spent five years in government frustrating every Tory attempt to introduce the above…

10

Salem 05.13.15 at 8:38 am

I agree with Daragh – this is hyperbole in the extreme. In particular, scrapping the HRA and replacing it with a British Bill of Rights* is likely to improve, not reduce, access to legal remedies against genuine government abuse, and appointing someone who wants to scrap the licence fee Culture Secretary is in no way an “intimidat[ion] of independent journalism” – it’s just a move to change the BBC funding structure. Again, they are not making “legal strike action impossible” – strike action will still be possible (just harder) under those services affected by the measure, and the new measure will only apply to essential services in the first place.

If you would stick to describing what the new government is actually doing, rather than tendentious exaggeration, I might find you more persuasive. For instance, if you think the HRA is better than a putative BBoR then say so, and explain why. But to misleadingly describe the first half of the Tory policy and not the second does you no credit.

11

Maria 05.13.15 at 8:41 am

The LDs had already run out of road on the Snoopers’ Charter. Those of us watching closely knew the HO was going to reintroduce it, minus the LDs’ limits, after the election, whatever happened. I hugely appreciate the individual efforts of, say, Julian Huppert (LD Cambridge) to mitigate some of the worst elements of this policy in the last government. But all they did was buy about 18 months. Not worth it, frankly. A hell of a lot more might have been achieved in opposition to a Tory minority government. So no, putting a brake on something that is happening anyway is not hugely valuable to me.

12

Daragh McDowell 05.13.15 at 8:52 am

@Maria – I defer to your wisdom and knowledge on this, even if I’m not convinced about the ‘Tory minority’ scenario for the LibDems post the 2010 election (see other threads here, ad nauseum).

13

Maria 05.13.15 at 9:01 am

Fair enough, Daragh. You’re right – it’s not useful to think about the hypotheticals from 2010 onward.

14

Neville Morley 05.13.15 at 9:13 am

Presumably accidental, but that quote from Cameron reads like a direct retort to Pericles’ vision of Athenian democracy (Thucydides 2.37).

15

Phil 05.13.15 at 9:24 am

scrapping the HRA and replacing it with a British Bill of Rights is likely to improve, not reduce, access to legal remedies against genuine government abuse

In the immortal words of John Cleese, explain the logic underlying that conclusion.

16

Sam Dodsworth 05.13.15 at 10:04 am

Phil@15

The keyword there is “genuine”, of course.

17

Maria 05.13.15 at 10:09 am

I haven’t seen anyone writing about it yet, but aside from the clear problems deleting the HRA would create for the Good Friday Accord and in Scotland – almost makes you think the Tories don’t want to preserve the Union! – there is an issue with the armed forces.

Since the Iraq war, UK case law has established that the ECHR is directly applicable to the conduct of British armed forces abroad, particularly articles 2 and 5 on due process and detention. The ECHR applies wherever British forces go, and to whomever they deal with.

Repealing the HRA would create two problems. First, that whatever Bill of Rights the Conservatives are likely to come up with will be attempting to constrain and eliminate the need for the armed forces to treat prisoners properly, etc. It may surprise some, but that will not go down especially well with, e.g. the Army Legal Service who tend to come down hard on offences. Also other soldiers who, unlike the DM, tend to have little or no sympathy for the likes of Marine A. (And especially for Marines B and C, who completely got off. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24870699) This stuff may play well in the shires, but not universally so amongst the people it would be expected to ‘benefit’.

Secondly, since the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, an awful lot of case law has further enmeshed the ECHR into military justice, its criminal justice counterparts and filtered down into the rules of engagement – down to the . A BoR will create massive uncertainty and confusion, even if it is eventually recognised by the Council of Europe as satisfying the ECHR requirements (something that is by no means certain and will take years to effect).

Let’s not forget that the 1998 HRA was passed in the context of a country coming to terms with systematic abuses in Northern Ireland by the military, and in GB within the criminal justice system against convicted terrorists later (much later) found to be innocent.

This stuff doesn’t come out of nowhere. The HRA wasn’t just, as its critics have it, a crusading internationalist Blairite weeping liberal apology. It was a principled response to a massive domestic problem, and it largely did the job.

18

Maria 05.13.15 at 10:13 am

Sorry, the application of ECHR to UK armed forces abroad was of course decided ultimately by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and that decision has been absorbed and applied in UK case law.

19

Salem 05.13.15 at 10:33 am

@Phil: In the slim chance that you’re actually looking to discuss the issue, the HRA implements the ECHR into British law. This is an incredibly squishy document, with a very broad reach but very little substance. Consider, for example, the article on freedom of expression:

Article 10 – Freedom of expression
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

In other words, you can have freedom of speech, except it has to be balanced against a laundry list of concerns as long as your arm, and even then saddles judges with impossible determinations of what’s “necessary in a democratic society.” So the sweep of the convention is both much too broad, in that almost any policy that could possibly affect information transfer is a potential breach (maybe the license fee!), and much too narrow, in that it fails to provide categorical protection for core freedom of expression.

So, for example, is the proposed counter-extremism bill the OP complains about in breach of the ECHR, and hence the HRA? God only knows. Certainly it restricts freedom of expression. But then, the limits are justified by national security. But then, are those limits “necessary in a democratic society,” and how on earth can a judge determine that? In practice, it will very likely pass muster, because judges are simply not in a position to evaluate national security claims like these. I note the irony that the OP complains about the government’s restrictions on free expression, and also that it wants to replace the HRA, when the HRA won’t protect us from the claimed breaches of free expression he’s complaining about.

What’s actually needed is a different method of rights protection, one that doesn’t open up the courts as a political front by providing light protection to almost anything (see for example Article 8 litigation), but that does provide categorical protection to a narrow set of core rights. Now, we don’t know what would be in any BBoR, partly because the Lib Dems tied this up in the last Parliament, so it’s certainly possible that the new law would be no better than the old (though I find it hard to believe it could be any worse). So let’s wait and see what’s in the law before we get too excited either way, but I’m very optimistic.

20

Haftime 05.13.15 at 10:37 am

Salem – you’re optimistic that the government will introduce a law that will make sections of its own legislative program illegal? Right.

21

Metatone 05.13.15 at 10:41 am

I think the political realities of the Human Rights Act situation will be interesting.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you could find around 15 Tory MPs who have principled reasons for not endorsing the withdrawal. That’s enough to make for a very close vote indeed.

I think the most significant battle coming down the road is the EU membership referendum. That has the potential to truly recast the fate of the nation.

The rest of Chris’ list is interesting because if we anticipate that the EU referendum will be a noisy and tough contest, then these are the things the government feels it must do before that starts. If the referendum goes for Brexit, parliamentary time will be swamped by the need to organise the exit. So these are the very peak priorities – which should give the economic libertarians who vote Tory some food for thought.

22

Chris Bertram 05.13.15 at 10:45 am

“one that doesn’t open up the courts as a political front “

Hilarious!

23

Salem 05.13.15 at 10:57 am

Salem – you’re optimistic that the government will introduce a law that will make sections of its own legislative program illegal? Right.

No. I am optimistic that the new BBoR will provide categorical protection for a narrow set of core rights, while avoiding the endless balancing tests affecting all and sundry.

I don’t believe that hate speech in public places is a core right (incitement to religious or racial hatred is already a crime, and rightly so). Nor are “violence, public disorder, harassment or other criminal acts.” Chris is the one claiming that this counter-extremism bill (which none of us have seen, even in draft form) is some outrageous limitation on free expression, not me.

24

x.trapnel 05.13.15 at 11:01 am

The fact that the Tories only got about 25% of the eligible voters would be irrelevant, sure–except that the strike restrictions they’re introducing (40+% of eligible voters required for ‘essential public services’ strikes) are explicitly premised on the idea that there’s a legitimacy problem when a group takes actions that will have serious adverse consequences for others unless it not only had majority support but also a high participation threshhold. Obviously they don’t actually care one whit about legitimacy, and this is just a figleaf for making it harder to strike, but they need to have this thrown in their face over and over until they find a new rationalization.

25

engels 05.13.15 at 11:13 am

Also striking workers don’t actually have guns, batons, handcuffs, straitjackets and nuclear missiles at their disposal…

26

ajay 05.13.15 at 12:43 pm

judges are simply not in a position to evaluate national security claims like these

Yes, judges are, specifically the judges on the ECourtHR (it is annoying that the Convention and the Court have identical acronyms), that’s their job.

27

Michael Sullivan 05.13.15 at 12:53 pm

I don’t know about the rest of you, and as an American, I may be missing some cultural cues, but that quote alone to me is chilling enough, no matter how you interpret the actual legislative and executive proposals/actions.

Doesn’t that statement oppose the very essence of a liberal democratic republic? Doesn’t it oppose the foundation of the rule of law? It literally expresses a desire for a pre-Magna Carta conception of government’s power vis a vis citizens.

As authoritarian and illiberal as the right is in America, and as cute and cuddly green as your Tory’s grass often seems in comparison from this side of the fence, I do not ever recall reading a statement so chilling from a Republican in a major leadership position.

28

Michael Sullivan 05.13.15 at 1:00 pm

To follow up with my own postscript: illiberal sentiments that I have read both from the US and the UK, almost always follow a model of at least paying lip service to the rule of law. Whether it be the “If you’ve done nothing wrong, then you have nothing to hide” justification for oppressive surveillance, or using legislation of ballot measures to pass illiberal laws/amendments or justifying illiberal executive measures with putatively temporary national security expediency. Maybe I’ve just missed similar statements in the past, but Cameron’s statement crosses a Rubikon for me.

29

Daragh McDowell 05.13.15 at 1:16 pm

“I do not ever recall reading a statement so chilling from a Republican in a major leadership position.”

Really? Bit of a short memory then.

30

christian_h 05.13.15 at 1:25 pm

I have seen this “hah, now you miss the LibDems lefties!” stuff all over the web. I find that weird given no LibDems would have been needed to put the breaks on the nasty party if they hadn’t helped said nasty party into power in the first place.

31

Chris Bertram 05.13.15 at 1:34 pm

If only I had waited a few hours, I could have added that they are planning to change freedom of information rules so that the state doesn’t have to disclose as much.

32

Daragh McDowell 05.13.15 at 1:36 pm

@christian_h

Oh for the love of… Please Google UK General Election Result 2010, and then spend some time counting the number of seats won by each party. Then take a look at what the likes of Tom Harris and John Reid said about a potential Lib-Lab coalition after the election.

33

engels 05.13.15 at 1:36 pm

I have seen this “hah, now you miss the LibDems lefties!” stuff all over the web

It’s probably mostly written by Daragh. He and his friends have got a lot of time of their hands these days.

34

Joe Perry 05.13.15 at 2:09 pm

The Lib Dems did not have to join any government. The idea that they were somehow forced into power (and the consequent compromises with the Tories that involved) is simply wrong.

35

Pete 05.13.15 at 2:27 pm

A majority of 900 voters: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/ampp3d/general-election-results-just-900-5682492

The thing all these proposals have in common is (a) they seem to respond to right-authoritarian demands, which is worrying, and (b) they’re incredibly vague. We can’t critique the BBoR in detail because it’s not been drafted yet. Nobody’s willing to give an example of a specific case that would have been resolved differently under BBoR but not subsequently overturned on appeal to ECtHR.

Meanwhile the press are very keen to paint Scotland as a “one party state”, and the MPs elected by a clear majority of votes cast as illegitimate.

36

Sasha Clarkson 05.13.15 at 2:27 pm

engels @33 LOL :D

Joe @34 – But they didn’t have any power, merely office: the coalition agreement was a noose around the neck of the party.

It wasn’t selling their birthright for a mess of potage, it was selling OUR birthright for the right to be the prefects’ fags.

The VIZ Facebook page had some fun with this!

https://www.facebook.com/VizComic/photos/a.115083725219750.14844.115082048553251/739511499443633/?type=1&comment_id=739514926109957&offset=150&total_comments=183&comment_tracking={%22tn%22%3A%22R2%22}

37

Daragh McDowell 05.13.15 at 2:36 pm

@Joe – I’m not suggesting that at all. I’m suggesting – accurately – that the only other alternative was a Tory minority. And while the Lib Dems made compromises – more or less axiomatic when one is in coalition – so did the Tories. Hence the introduction of these various, reactionary bits of legislation AFTER the Tories won a majority and were no longer obliged to govern in coalition.

38

Metatone 05.13.15 at 2:39 pm

Keir Starmer makes an interesting point in The Guardian today.
Renovating the Human Rights legislation isn’t going to satisfy the UKIP tendency.
Rather, there will have to be moves to withdraw from the E. Convention on Human Rights – which I again surmise may be harder to engineer a majority for than technical changes.

39

Pete 05.13.15 at 3:07 pm

@38 Nothing will really satisfy the UKIP tendency other than TV footage of immigrants being rounded up and herded onto a boat. It’s not a coherent set of realistic demands in response to real, specific problems, it’s the end result of years of media immigrant-bashing and benefit-claimant-demonisation on top of long term unemployment and regional economic decline.

Bring jobs back to Clackton, Grimsby, Lowestoft, etc. and you might quieten it down.

40

Phil 05.13.15 at 3:46 pm

Salem – I am interested in debating this issue; I wasn’t sure if you were posting either in good faith or on the basis of knowledge. Thanks for putting my mind at rest.

I still think your take on the proposed replacement of the HRA is extraordinarily unworldly. Yes, an HRA which didn’t have so many opt-outs would be a good thing to have (just as it would be good if ECHR jurisprudence didn’t lean so heavily on the questionable doctrine of the “margin of appreciation”). But is that what’s going on? Is that why the Conservative Party wants to replace the HRA – so that its hands will be bound more often and more effectively? I really don’t think so. Have a look at Mark Elliott‘s analysis of the “British Bill of Rights” proposals and get back to us.

41

Luke 05.13.15 at 4:25 pm

I want to reiterate Michael Sullivan’s point. That quote reads like a renunciation of liberalism and the rule of law. I mean, those things have been dead in the water for years with ‘anti-terrorism’ laws and so forth, but to hear someone actually say so… How are people reacting to this in the UK?

42

Stephen 05.13.15 at 4:49 pm

Luke: By “that quote” I expect you mean ““For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.” Thing is, some people have come to believe that, as things stand, the law does not forbid (or the legal system cannot be relied on to take action against) activities that were not previously thought possible, but which are highly undesirable.

If that were so, should the law be changed?

43

TM 05.13.15 at 5:39 pm

Wow, it gets better. First EU exit, then “withdraw from the E. Convention on Human Rights” (note, the second doesn’t depend on the first – Turkey is signatory of the ECHR).

Does Cameron really want to turn Britain into a pariah state?

The ECHR actually allows member states to opt out of certain human rights guarantees during a national emergency. You know of course who in the past has been the only European country (to my knowledge) to use the opt-out clause? That’s right, Britain, first to fight the IRA and then after 9/11. I remember there was a court decision denouncing the opt-out and a judge saying that to compare a band of terrorists with the WWII existential threat of a Nazi invasion was insulting. Wasn’t that where the HRA came from? (I may be mixing things up, any clarification appreciated). In any case, Salem’s complaint in 19 that ECHR is too vague is bizarre. ECHR defines minimum standards, which Britain would be free to exceed if they really wanted to, but past history doesn’t really suggest that any British government is eager to be held to stricter human rights standards.

44

Luke 05.13.15 at 5:51 pm

@Stephen
“as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone” is almost the definition of the liberal rule of law. These “activities that were not previously thought possible, but which are highly undesirable” can either be banned outright, or they can be allowed, but neither option is being proposed, from what I can see. Cameron’s statements and proposed legislation are explicitly about legalising extra-legal (or at least arbitrary) powers — allowing the executive and its organs to decide, on an arbitrary basis, what is and isn’t legal. This is the very definition of a police state.

45

TM 05.13.15 at 6:01 pm

Shouldn’t it be pointed out that the maxim “as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone” has been abandoned a long time ago (under Labor of course) with the introduction of the ASBO, created to make entirely legal behavior illegal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-social_behaviour_order)?

That quote of Camoren’s is certainly chilling but it’s also a lie.

46

Stephen 05.13.15 at 6:03 pm

Luke: as I understand it, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32714802, what is being proposed is to allow Parliament (the legislature, not the executive) to change the law to deal with previously unforeseen circumstances. Am I wrong?

47

Stephen 05.13.15 at 6:17 pm

Sasha is in some cases too moderate in describing Chris’s post as hyperbolic: if there were such a word, I would suggest perahyperbolic. Taking his denunciations one at a time:

Intimidating independent journalism. This amounts to enquiring whether the current system for funding the BBC – by a tax which must be paid by anyone wanting to watch TV, whether they want to watch the BBC or not, and with a law that can send anyone not paying the tax to prison – is just and necessary. Arguing that it is not is not obviously evil, or even wrong; no matter how high one’s opinion of the BBC’s output.

Making legal strike action impossible. This amounts to making strike action in a limited number of essential services illegal unless at least 40% of those eligible to vote support the strike. Against that, there are two possible arguments. That such strikes should be legal no matter how few people support them; or that a limit is necessary, but 40% is too high. Either argument, from Chris, would be interesting.

The argument that the current government also failed to get over 40% of the electorate voting for them and is therefore illegitimate is specious: no government since 1945 has had the vote of over 40% of the electorate. But we do have to have a government. We don’t have to have a strike.

Criminalizing dissent. That would be horrifying if real: actually, what is proposed is criminalizing extremist organisations who use hate speech in public places. Not the same thing at all: though I have doubts about the whole concept of hate speech. Tories are scum, tories are vermin, eat the rich: is that hate speech? I doubt it. Mere vulgar abuse, with nobody likely to suffer as a result in the real world . We hate the kuffar, Jews are the offspring of pigs and monkeys: maybe, and innocent people have suffered. Chris: your opinion?

Increasing state surveillance: what is proposed is to required internet and mobile phone companies to keep records of customers’ browsing activity, social media use, emails, voice calls, online gaming and text messages for a year. Rather benign surveillance compared to actually oppressive regimes. How oppressive depends on what the security people are allowed to do with those records. Chris: how much surveillance is needed to stop planes, trains, buses exploding?
Or how many explosions will you accept as the price for reducing surveillance?

Blocking access to legal remedies against the abuse of state power. My memory is that, before the HRA, there were such remedies. Also, that some of the judgments under the ECHRA have been very doubtful. Could such be usefully dispensed with?

Long post, I should maybe have broken it into 5 sections. Apologies: I didn’t have time to make it shorter.

48

Phil 05.13.15 at 6:18 pm

“New law creates new crime” isn’t news. What they’re talking about is bringing in new powers to control people who have committed no crime even under the new legislation. They’re saying, not that behaviour X is so dangerous it needs to be criminalised (despite currently being defined as legal) but that behaviour X is so dangerous it needs to be selectively controlled and suppressed (despite not being defined at all, and consequently being impossible to define as a crime).

49

guthrie 05.13.15 at 6:42 pm

I don’t remember voting for the current system in a referendum. I do recall being asked if I was interested in some other system, and I said yes. I certainly wasn’t asked if I was entirely happy with the way things are, which is a different quesiton.

50

N/A 05.13.15 at 6:43 pm

Stephen:

“This amounts to enquiring whether the current system for funding the BBC”

It is not a simple “inquiry”. A Minister opposed to the BBC is in charge of the next funding settlement. Right now it is in desperate need of cash. The licence fee has been frozen (nominally) for 6 years and is up for review again. In real terms it is lower than at any point since the 1970s. On top of that, it has been saddled with top-slicing to help pay for other broadcasters, and has also had to take on responsibility for the World Service from the FCO. Increased costs with vastly reduced funding, a Tory appointee (Patten) as head, that is not a recipe for independent journalism, before we even get to the news settlement which in a time of austerity is likely to be harsh.

“We don’t have to have a strike”

Yes we do, if workers democratically vote for it. That is a fundamental right. Counting abstentions as no votes just reinforces the idea that capitalism is neo-feudalism.

“what is proposed is criminalizing extremist organisations who use hate speech in public places”

Except ideas like “threat to democracy”, “extremism” and “public order” which have been bandied about, haven’t been defined. Judging by previous proposals, judging by the inherent subjective nature of these proposals, and judging by past Home Office drawing up of legislation, there will be an awfully wide scope for abuses. I’ve known people who have come under threat of anti-terrorism legislation merely for student protesting, so this is not at all fanciful.

“How oppressive depends on what the security people are allowed to do with those records”

Well anything they feel like, or have you been on another planet and not heard of Edward Snowden, GCHQ or the fact that the intelligence services are allowed an opt-out from the law if Ministers say so?

“My memory is that, before the HRA, there were such remedies”

Then your memory is wrong. Short of actually going to Strasbourg itself (an option open to few of us), there was no defence for a British citizen whose rights/freedoms were denied.

“Also, that some of the judgments under the ECHRA have been very doubtful. Could such be usefully dispensed with?”

No.

51

TM 05.13.15 at 7:44 pm

“But we do have to have a government. We don’t have to have a strike.”

Precious.

“to keep records of customers’ browsing activity, social media use, emails, voice calls, online gaming and text messages for a year. Rather benign surveillance compared to actually oppressive regimes.”

Only the emails, voice calls and text messages are subject to state surveillance? Oh, and social media use and browsing activity. But nothing else? Really? And people make a fuss about that???

52

bexley 05.13.15 at 8:01 pm

One more thing to note is that the House of Commons only needs 40 MPs (out of 650) to participate in a division for the vote to be valid.

So there is no requirement for a 50% turnout for legislation to be passed!

53

Stephen 05.13.15 at 8:03 pm

N/A: right, so you don’t think there is anything wrong with a system in which I have to pay a tax to fund the BBC (whether I want to watch it or not) and can be sent to prison if I don’t.

Interesting opinion. Why?

54

Luke 05.13.15 at 8:04 pm

“According to details given by Mrs May at last year’s Conservative Party conference, such orders would apply if ministers “reasonably believe” a group intended to incite religious or racial hatred, to threaten democracy, or if there was a pressing need to protect the public from harm, either from a risk of violence, public disorder, harassment or other criminal acts.

The granting of a ban, which would be subject to immediate review by the High Court, would make membership or funding of the organisation concerned a criminal offence.

The extreme disruption orders could be imposed on individuals, using the same criteria.”

I will grant that there is some court oversight. The general thrust of the thing, though, is that ministers can render anyone or anything that might be construed as leading to illegality (including ‘public disorder’) illegal, and in an entirely selective manner. As per TM’s post above, I’m aware of precedents in the form of ASBOs. Similar developments exist in countries like Australia and the US, which is why I find this fascinating/frightening.

55

N/A 05.13.15 at 8:10 pm

“Interesting opinion. Why?”

For the same reason that you should go to prison if you refuse to pay taxes to fund the police or the NHS. Even if no-one commits a crime against you or you never get sick. It’s called the social contract.

56

Stephen 05.13.15 at 8:10 pm

N/A: we have a right to strike if workers democratically vote for it.

Bearing in mind that we’re talking about strikes in essential services, please define “democratically”. 40% of the workers? 20%? 10%? 5%? 1%?

57

Stephen 05.13.15 at 8:12 pm

A/A: I have no idea what you mean by “neo-feudalism”. I do have a clear idea what has been meant by feudalism. Please define.

58

JW Mason 05.13.15 at 8:12 pm

The general thrust of the thing, though, is that ministers can render anyone or anything that might be construed as leading to illegality (including ‘public disorder’) illegal, and in an entirely selective manner. As per TM’s post above, I’m aware of precedents in the form of ASBOs.

The precedents go back a bit further than that, no?

59

Stephen 05.13.15 at 8:14 pm

N/A: you are entirely right is saying that “extremist organisations who use hate speech in public places`” is a vague concept. I gave examples of hate speech that I think might not, or might, be rightly classified. Your opinion?

60

Stephen 05.13.15 at 8:17 pm

N/A: “the fact that the intelligence services are allowed an opt-out from the law if Ministers say so”. If this is true, what is your authority for saying so? And if it is true, for how long has that been so?

61

Stephen 05.13.15 at 8:19 pm

N/A: if you really believe that pre-October 2000 “there was no defence for a British citizen whose rights/freedoms were denied” we must have been living in entirely different countries.

62

Stephen 05.13.15 at 8:23 pm

Luke@54: in your opinion, what sort of groups, subject to immediate review by the High Court, could legitimately be banned.

63

protoplasm 05.13.15 at 8:29 pm

Hey Stephen, you should post some more. I don’t think you’ve posted quite enough yet, a few more posts should do it though. Don’t despair, chin up, and just keep posting.

64

N/A 05.13.15 at 8:39 pm

“Bearing in mind that we’re talking about strikes in essential services, please define “democratically”. 40% of the workers? 20%? 10%? 5%? 1%?”

A simple majority of those who vote. Why should abstentions count as no votes?

“I have no idea what you mean by “neo-feudalism”. I do have a clear idea what has been meant by feudalism. Please define.”

Rhetorical flourish but a quick Google and you will see it’s quite a common term for essentially locking in workers to increasingly poor economic circumstances, with lower ability to dissent.

“I gave examples of hate speech that I think might not, or might, be rightly classified. Your opinion?”

Well firstly they’re not just talking about ‘hate speech’, but anyway I don’t understand you question. If the question is: what are they proposing to ban? Then the answer is – it all sounds very vague and usually when you give the police and security state an inch, they tend to take a mile. So a lot good be banned in practice, even by accident. But if the question is: what do I believe should be banned? Well then I take a kind of First Amendment absolutism. Allow any opinion up to imminent lawless action. It is the least subjective criteria.

“If this is true, what is your authority for saying so? And if it is true, for how long has that been so?”

1994:

http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/~llzweb/hrlc/hrnews/feb97/intells.htm

And of course, that was only shortly after the government even acknowledged the security services existence. So in practice – almost their entire history.

65

Luke 05.13.15 at 8:43 pm

@JW Mason
Yes indeed, but the Riot Act and similar legislation are rather blunt instruments by comparison. You could also talk about emergency laws and so forth. But there is no emergency. This and anti-terror legislation bear more than a passing resemblence to lettres de cachet.

Look, I’ve always regarded liberal universalism to be a bit of a sham, but that doesn’t mean that its hypocrisies weren’t sometimes constructive. What does it mean when liberal democracies no longer even bother with pretense?

66

N/A 05.13.15 at 8:44 pm

“if you really believe that pre-October 2000 “there was no defence for a British citizen whose rights/freedoms were denied” we must have been living in entirely different countries”

Well yes, we must have. Consider this. Internment in Northern Ireland – the only legal route of complaint that had any effect was complaint to Strasbourg.

Meanwhile, when in effect the same policy was used during the War on Terror, those subjected were able to complain through the UK’s courts under the Human Rights Act:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4100481.stm

67

novakant 05.13.15 at 9:20 pm

Some people can be talked into anything …

68

Sasha Clarkson 05.13.15 at 9:31 pm

For several reasons, the legal discussion here brings to my mind the famous “Humpty Dumpty” case from WWII, Liversidge v Anderson. The battle was over ministers’ discretion to detain people they thought were “hostile” to Britain. They interpreted the law as meaning they did not have to justify their opinion with evidence, and the Lords of Appeal backed them, but with a famous dissenting judgement by Lord Atkin, who declared that the judges were “more executive minded than the executive”, and ignored the meaning of the language of the legislation to avoid holding the minister to account. In his summing up he said

“It has always been one of the pillars of freedom, one of the principles of liberty for which on recent authority we are now fighting, that the judges … stand between the subject and any attempted encroachments on his liberty by the executive, alert to see that any coercive action is justified in law.

[…]

I know of only one authority which might justify the suggested method of construction. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be the master, that’s all.””

Lord Atkin’s speech was so powerful, that its echoes down the decades eventually shamed the next generation of Lords appelate into backing his interpretation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liversidge_v_Anderson

69

Salem 05.13.15 at 9:52 pm

For the same reason that you should go to prison if you refuse to pay taxes to fund the police or the NHS. Even if no-one commits a crime against you or you never get sick. It’s called the social contract.

This is a good argument for why I should pay the license fee, given that it’s in force. It’s not a good argument as to why a democratically elected government can’t abolish it.

The license fee is unfair, regressive, expensive to collect, and out of date. A quick glance at the BBC schedule puts paid to any notion that the majority of the money is used for any kind of public service broadcasting. I do not see why the poorest people in the country, who disproportionately watch television, should be unable to do so for free, and frankly I don’t see why anyone else should have to pay a forced subscription to a sub-standard provider either. I’d like to see the BBC go down to one national TV channel, one national radio station, news collection, plus some local stuff, all dedicated to genuine public service broadcasting, not imitations of what is already commercially available free of charge, and funded out of ordinary taxation.

70

Salem 05.13.15 at 10:03 pm

@Phil: The point is not that the Conservative government wants its hands bound more often; just the reverse. The point is that we should have hard rules which absolutely prevent genuine abuses (which no mainstream party is ever likely to favour, but you have to guard against the future) while not having vague rules that have the risk of tying up every decision in interminable litigation. For instance, adding a third runway at Heathrow may or may not be a good idea – that’s why we have a political process. But it certainly doesn’t breach anyone’s human rights.

Bind the hands less often, but more effectively.

As for the article linked, it’s absurd. Yes, of course a narrower law may cause the ECHR to rule against Britain more often. Yes, of course the government is contemplating non-compliance with ECHR rulings, because it already does – take the absurd “votes for prisoners” ruling that’s been outstanding for a decade now. HRA or no HRA, no British government could ever implement that. No, this is not an abandonment of the “rule of law,” because international law is simply not the same kind of thing as domestic law.

71

Phil 05.13.15 at 10:12 pm

As for the article linked, it’s absurd.

Now you’ve put me in a quandary. Which to take more seriously: a 4000-word article by a Reader in Public Law at Cambridge, or a tetchy one-paragraph put-down by Some Guy on the Internet?

72

Salem 05.13.15 at 10:38 pm

And which should I take more seriously – the internet scribbling of a random academic, or the policy of HMG? We can play this silly game all day. But contrary to your impression, I’m not trying to persuade you that replacing the HRA is a good idea, my aim was to point out the tendentious misrepresentations in the OP. You’re ignorant of the HRA, and determined to remain so; that’s really no skin off my nose.

73

N/A 05.14.15 at 12:36 am

“This is a good argument for why I should pay the license fee, given that it’s in force”

Well I was asked about being forced to pay money to the BBC. Being forced to pay something applies to all tax, so I answered the question I was given.

“The license fee is unfair, regressive, expensive to collect, and out of date”

I agree, but the Tories so far haven’t proposed something to rectify that – simple inflation protected funding out of general taxation. Instead they’ve proposed “taking on the BBC” in terms of the viewpoints it has expressed, potentially freezing yet further or even reducing the amount of money it gets, and also removing criminal penalties for non-payment of the licence fee. That last one in particular is not about “keeping BBC as is but making funding fairer”, it is a clear, calculated attempt to reduce the amount of money it will get, and therefore reduces its ability to function.

“a sub-standard provider”

By what metric? ITV? Channel 4? Absurd. News output is obviously not as good as Al Jazeera, but overall it seems to do an okay job. And yes, that’s my subjective opinion, like yours, however viewing figures for BBC output tend to be decent, suggesting it wins the eyeball market. And for non-public service stuff, consumerism is the only valid metric really.

“I’d like to see the BBC go down to one national TV channel, one national radio station, news collection, plus some local stuff”

Well at least you admit your goal is to shrink the BBC. It’s a legit viewpoint, but don’t pretend it is to do with the “unfairness of the licence fee”. You can have a licence fee and a big BBC. A licence fee and a small BBC. No licence fee and a big BBC. Or no licence fee and a small BBC.

As for your view on shrinking the BBC, well I disagree. Consider the political economy of it. Can a small broadcaster which produces stuff watched by hardly anyone, sustain it’s existence as easily as something that produces Dr Who and Match of the Day? Doubtful. And consider the intellectual and artistic freedom of it. What body are you going to set up to make sure the BBC’s output is only your kind of “approved” public service stuff? Who gets to decide what is in the public interest, and what’s not? Better to give the BBC complete freedom to produce a lot (especially if you plan to drastically reduce its funding instead!), and then let it get on with it, and stop the state meddling in its programming.

“not imitations of what is already commercially available free of charge”

How do you know it’s not the other way round? How do you know the BBC isn’t a basic standard which pushes the private broadcasters to do better? There’s no reason to believe an entirely private broadcasting system would be perfectly efficient even in populist entertainment shows.

74

N/A 05.14.15 at 12:49 am

“For instance, adding a third runway at Heathrow may or may not be a good idea – that’s why we have a political process. But it certainly doesn’t breach anyone’s human rights”

Has anyone suggested it certainly would? I mean, it’s theoretically possible that it could – if the state expropriated people’s homes for demolition without even compensation, that would be a human rights issue, especially if they didn’t find them anywhere else. Don’t be so quick to think you can just lump public policy issues into “human rights” and “nothing to do with human rights” – that’s what the courts are for.

“Bind the hands less often, but more effectively”

But that’s not what’s being put up for debate, is it? The bill of rights in your head doesn’t exist, they want to bind less, for sure, but nothing I have seen says they want it to be what rights we do get in it to be “more effective”.

“take the absurd “votes for prisoners” ruling that’s been outstanding for a decade now”

No actually:

http://www.headoflegal.com/2015/02/11/britains-got-its-way-on-prisoners-votes/

You are out of date. It is not Phil who is “ignorant” of the HRA/ECHR afaict.

75

christian_h 05.14.15 at 1:21 am

Can I just say that anyone who actually talks about “HMG” should be mercilessly ridiculed, as part of my solidarity campaign to undermine any and all British values whenever possible.

76

Keith 05.14.15 at 4:16 am

Considering who “HMG” are at the moment no one can rest easy about taking anything they say as valid. About anything at all.

And indeed why should we do so just because a few stupid people voted for them based on lies and smear stories and The Racist “The Jocks are coming to steal your wallet” argument?

As the former Attorney general Grieve said before the Prime minister sacked him for having a brain, the Tory plans for the HRA are incoherent . A new statute which conforms to our existing obligations is redundant and if it provides less protections for rights it is a policy choice without valid grounds. It merely shows how far right the Conservatives are today and what evils our failed Liberal and Labour parties have unleashed on the Nation by being so bad at party politics they get stuffed by the Tory party and their media baron mates. The owner of the Daily Mail how ever lives in France nd has its citizenship so does not need to worry for his rights; and there is always Bermuda to escape to if they try to arrest you.

77

Keith 05.14.15 at 4:22 am

re 76
Bermuda being where the first Rothermere fled after his far too friendly letters to Hitler came to the notice of the Cabinet in 1939.

Always so patriotic the Tory Fascist press Barons!!

78

Chris Bertram 05.14.15 at 6:42 am

Reading parts of this thread have caused me to reflect on the fact that Grant Shapps now has more time on his hands.

79

Daragh McDowell 05.14.15 at 8:18 am

As the OP seems to have unfortunately decided that the arguments of his critics, whether on hyperbole or the merits of the licence fee (full disclosure – I think it’s a good thing) aren’t worth engaging with beyond pointing and laughing, I’m going to leave this link here in the hopes that a more ideologically acceptable source might be useful in driving the argument forward.

80

Phil 05.14.15 at 8:57 am

And which should I take more seriously – the internet scribbling of a random academic, or the policy of HMG?

Nice try, but no. What you’re doing is comparing your interpretation of government policy (actual and proposed) with Mark Elliott’s interpretation of ditto. So you’ve taken a couple of lines out of a long and closely argued post by a leading academic authority, disagreed with them without any discussion and declared the entire post to be ‘absurd’. Up to you, but it’s not Elliott who comes out of it looking silly.

81

Chris Bertram 05.14.15 at 9:14 am

Daragh, I don’t have an obligation to engage with anonymous people on internet comment threads, not even here. Most of the comments by Salem and Stephen have struck me as being essentially self-sabotaging, but insofar as explicit commentary is needed, Phil and N/A have been doing a good job. As for your own attempts in numerous comments threads to vindicate the actions of Clegg and the Cleggonauts, I think they are best thought of as a strange line in performance art. Keep it up, there may be grants available.

82

Salem 05.14.15 at 9:25 am

@N/A – re: BBC

I’m always amazed at these “political economy” arguments that government services have to be wasteful, inefficient and clientelist service because if we tried to do them well, the public wouldn’t support it. Sometimes I even see outright corruption argued for. I see this argument used regarding benefits, regarding schooling, regarding housing, and now regarding the BBC, and it always stuns me. Are you guys anarcho-capitalists in disguise, trying to undermine state provision? My own view is pretty much the opposite. Nothing so discredits a government service as obvious waste and inefficiency, and nothing so discredits a speaker as defending such. It’s very hard to take people seriously when they say out of one side of the mouth “We need the state to provide important public services” and out of the other side of the mouth “The state needs to provide these services really badly.” It’s much the same as Miliband’s defense of the benefits cap. If he’d said “the benefits cap is a great idea, but we need to use the savings to increase other benefits provision” he might have won the public over. Instead, he just made him self look like a champion of waste.

The government can run services well, and there’s no better advertisement for government provision of services than when it does so. But the BBC isn’t an example of such right now, and we’re talking about huge sums of money – the license fee is £3.7bn a year. Maybe a slimmed-down, refocused BBC can be made so, at which point maybe it could be allowed to grow again.

Secondly, the BBC is part of the state. All these decisions have to be made (by the state) anyway.

83

Salem 05.14.15 at 9:26 am

@N/A re: HRA

[I]f the state expropriated people’s homes for demolition without even compensation, that would be a human rights issue, especially if they didn’t find them anywhere else.

I think this gets to the nub of the issue. I agree that would be a human rights violation, and similarly if the people of Sipson were machine-gunned to move them out of the way (which is equally likely). But merely building the third runway and having planes land on it would be thoroughly unobjectionable from a human rights point of view. Yet we face the prospect of campaigners tying up the government for years in spurious arguments that aircraft noise at Heathrow is somehow a breach of human rights, and it’s made even worse by the fact that the ECHR took their claims seriously (although ultimately ruled against them). This is why the government has said that the BBoR will be limited to “the most serious cases” – because at present the law is so vague and all-encompassing that it is possible to challenge almost anything.

“You are out of date.

On the contrary, the UK remains in breach of the ECHR according to the court, which your link re-iterates in the very first sentence. They just didn’t award any compensation. As I’ve said before, I think this is the best possible resolution from the UK’s point of view. The government won’t have to pay any “compensation” to these criminals. The government won’t have to waste time and money defending future cases, because the failure to award costs is a strong discouragement to future litigants. And best of all, it normalises the refusal to abide by absurd ECHR rulings. Because no-one has any incentive to re-litigate this case, the breach is going to stay outstanding indefinitely. So the next time the ECHR makes some barmy ruling, the government of the day will be able to cheerfully ignore it, and say “Look, this is exactly what we did in the prisoner voting cases.”

84

Minnow 05.14.15 at 9:33 am

Whittingdale is a mixed bag. Bad for the BBC but staunchly anti-Leveson as far as I understand, so standing up for independent journalism there.

85

Daragh McDowell 05.14.15 at 9:37 am

@Chris – I’m not implying any obligation on your part to engage, and you’re free to think of others what you will. The point is that there are many people here (including, if I may say, myself) who were extremely disappointed with Thursday’s result and are looking for a constructive forward path that results in some non-Tory alternative being in government and are of the opinion that the continued preferencing of ideological purity over coalition building cannot achieve that, nor can shouting ‘betrayal!’ at Liberal Democrats because they couldn’t magically make the total number of Labour and LD seats won in 2010 equal 323. If you want to continue searching for the One True Left and sneering at the rest of us while lamenting the follies of the electorate and denouncing the evil of the Tories in the most hyperbolic terms, that’s your choice. I personally think building alliances that can realistically win and hold power, with all the compromises and disappointments that entails is a more productive use of all of our time. It certainly is more likely to result in the implementation of policies that might achieve progressive goals. I’m assuming that, and not intellectual posturing, is the ultimate goal. Please correct me if I’m wrong as I’d be happy to disengage if it isn’t.

86

Chris Bertram 05.14.15 at 9:47 am

This piece from Helena Kennedy and Philippe Sands (from 2013) on the Tory agenda re human rights is worth a read:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n01/philippe-sands/in-defence-of-rights

87

Chris Bertram 05.14.15 at 9:52 am

@daragh Back in 2010 you took great offence when I and others expressed scepticism at Nick Clegg’s claims that the coalition were about to conduct “the biggest shake up of our democracy since 1832”

http://crookedtimber.org/2010/05/19/nick-clegg-historically-ignorant-self-promoting-buffoon/

I formed a firm opinion of you at the time and I have not changed it since. It seems we both feel we have been vindicated by subsequent events. I shall leave it to others to judge which of us is correct.

88

Daragh McDowell 05.14.15 at 10:11 am

@Chris – I didn’t take great offence at you expressing scepticism. I took offence at you calling him a ‘historically ignorant self-promoting buffoon’ and generally attacking the sincerity, motivation and intelligence of Lib Dem voters and their representatives. You also threw in a few sneering remarks about how attempts to moderate the Tories were doomed to failure, which given the topic of this post does seem to have been pretty happily refuted. You then closed the thread when it all got too much. In short – you reacted in a way that I think has been spectacularly self-defeating for much of the British Left.

I haven’t formed any firm opinion of you – I know you only through blog posts and internet comments, which I generally don’t feel always represent the wholeness of any human being. And even though I’ve found a lot of your conduct in these debates sneering and rude, I’m still open to finding common ground. If you’re not, fair enough, but as I’ve said, I don’t think it’s a constructive route to progressive change.

89

novakant 05.14.15 at 2:29 pm

I find the widespread and deep-seated hatred of the LibDems a bit puzzling, or rather the fact that it seems so much stronger than antipathy towards the Tories or UKIP. I’m not a fan of the LibDems either, but hey, they did oppose the Iraq war that Labour sold us on and they did oppose some of the more egregious policies undermining civil rights.

(and just to avoid potential misunderstandings: I am somewhere in the bottom left of this matrix: http://www.politicalcompass.org/uk2015 )

90

Sasha Clarkson 05.14.15 at 2:38 pm

Clegg was historically ignorant about more than the 1832 Reform Act, or at least he chose to be. In particular, the lessons of the 1930 and 40s, where the Liberals getting into bed with the Tories split the party: one part being absorbed into the Conservative fold as the National Liberals, and the rump being reduced to irrelevance.

I’ve no doubt that 2010 election did initiate “a huge shake-up in our democracy”, not necessarily in a good way, and certainly not in the way Mr Clegg dreamed. I doubt whether any of us could confidently predict what the political and electoral landscape will look like in 10 or even five years. But I would wager that for the Lib Dems as a party, things will get worse. Their paltry 2015 vote was still inflated by support for incumbent big hitters who lost, and by the vain hope in other constituencies that they might be the means of keeping the Tories out. This will not happen next time. They used to benefit from a protest vote at by-elections: that will now go to UKIP and even, perhaps, the Greens. Also, the financial state of the party is dire: I doubt there are any major donors left – in or out of Gaol. As for small donors, apart from die-hard members in denial, who would waste their money trying to resuscitate this undead cadaver of a party?

If there were a political Darwin Award, Clegg would be a leading candidate.

91

TM 05.14.15 at 2:39 pm

We really don’t need human rights laws and courts. We can just leave it to some random guy on the internet to decide what is and what isn’t a human rights violation (correct answer: there are by definitions no violations in the UK). In particular, people simply shouldn’t have the right to appeal to courts over perceived violations of their rights since such appeals are frivolous by definition (said some random on the internet). Britain really doesn’t need judicial oversight. Britain most definitely doesn’t need the ECHR, which it keeps violating anyway.

All of that makes a lot of sense, if you like being a pariah state. I actually think it would be a great move for “HMG” to cancel the ECHR. Why keep up pretenses? Be open about your contempt for foreign ideas like constitutions and human rights. England hasn’t needed the in the past and won’t in the future (Scotland may be a different matter).

92

novakant 05.14.15 at 3:32 pm

93

bexley 05.14.15 at 4:43 pm

Reading parts of this thread have caused me to reflect on the fact that Grant Shapps now has more time on his hands.

Grant Shapps is the kindest bravest warmest most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.

94

Bruce Wilder 05.14.15 at 5:22 pm

bexley @ 93

You really do need to get out more.

95

William Timberman 05.14.15 at 5:37 pm

The Manchurian Candidate again? How about All these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain? The Tories have lasted a long time, but even they won’t last forever. Unlike Mark Zuckerberg, who could theoretically survive even the Butlerian Jihad.

96

Ben 05.14.15 at 6:27 pm

Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t survive the pain box and gom jabbar

97

sillybill 05.14.15 at 9:53 pm

Ben – jeez who would? but it might be fun to watch.
Novakant @89 I followed the link, the chart looks very much like the one used by the Libertarian Party (US), I took the test, then had it display the print out version and found myself nestled in the warmth of Kropotkin’s beard – just where I belong.

All – thanks for helping a yank decode Brit politics.

98

engels 05.14.15 at 9:56 pm

Bexley, if you’ve been locked in Grant Shapps’ cellar since birth you should definitely alert the authorities and they will get you out.

99

N/A 05.14.15 at 10:44 pm

“I’m always amazed at these “political economy” arguments that government services have to be wasteful, inefficient and clientelist service because if we tried to do them well, the public wouldn’t support it”

You’ve just completely strawmanned my argument. Nowhere did I say that the BBC should be wasteful or inefficient. I said that it should be allowed to make Dr Who and whatever types of programs it fancies, and not just In Our Time. That is an argument for providing programming people want, not for “waste”.

“On the contrary, the UK remains in breach of the ECHR according to the court, which your link re-iterates in the very first sentence”

No, because I was responding to you saying that the case was still “outstanding”. As my link says, “The Court has drawn a line under its dispute with the UK” – it is therefore not still outstanding.

100

N/A 05.14.15 at 10:58 pm

“This is why the government has said that the BBoR will be limited to “the most serious cases” – because at present the law is so vague and all-encompassing that it is possible to challenge almost anything”

Because the word “serious” is not similarly vague. The case you present is an example of the ECHR working, sicne it was rejected. replace the ECHR/HRA and add in the word “serious”, and all you will get is the same types of cases, but this time clambering to prove they’re “serious” violations.

101

john c. halasz 05.14.15 at 11:11 pm

@ 89 & 90:

Not being a Brit, I don’t follow or understand U.K. politics all that much. I did start to pay close attention to the matter in early 2002, when I thought maybe Toney Blare would be an impediment to the beating war drums, but was quickly disabused of that dim hope. And at least under Kennedy, the LibDems had managed to position his party on many issues to the left of New Labour, (ironically, since the party partly originated in a defection of the right of old Labour), and had the great good merit of having been the only major party to have firmly opposed the Iraq fiasco. But even I knew that Clegg had committed his party to political suicide, in joining a coalition with the Tories, against his much of his own electoral base. I’m at least glad to see my political judgment vindicated.

102

Michael Sullivan 05.15.15 at 6:57 pm

Daragh @29: that misses the whole point. The link describes actions that I do find illiberal and reprehensible, along with bare fig leaf and innacurate emergency justifications for them. But that’s the whole point. Doing what they want may required tortured interpretations of their powers, but they at least felt the need to make and sel those interpretations, no matter how flimsy the justification.

That strikes me as somehow different than the outright assumption of unlimited executive powers implied by the idea that the government may choose arbitrarily not to “leave you alone” despite that you have “not broken any law”.

Now, in practice, not being stupid, I recognize that we have essentially had this regime of effectively unlimited executive power under various flimsy justifications mostly to do with combating crime/terrorism/indefinite war. But at least they have to make the justification every time.

103

Sasha Clarkson 05.15.15 at 7:09 pm

Re Tony Blair: Yesterday, my 13 year old nephew was asking me about politics. In the course of the discussion, I started explaining why I left the Labour Party in 2001, and he interjected, incredulously: “Tony Blair was Labour? – I always thought he was a Conservative!”

104

George Berger 05.17.15 at 8:08 am

Have I missed something? Shouldn’t there be some text or comment about the large cuts to benefits and independent living that the new government plans. Especially those that will affect disabled people. Anyone interested can go to dpac.uk.net . That is the URL of Disabled People Against Cuts.

105

John Quiggin 05.17.15 at 9:28 am

@68 Reading the Wikipedia link on Liversidge vs Anderson, I note that, as usual, Lord Denning appears as an enemy of freedom. He was incredibly well regarded by the law students I knew back in the 70s.

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