Category Archives: Politics

Brexit and Beacons

ECHR signatories
Signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights

Hmm… Just a quick one, this.

I heard Lord Lawson of Blaby last night, speaking on the ‘Outcome of the European Union Referendum’. I was very struck by the similarity of the language he used to language used by David Maxwell-Fyfe at the time of the genesis of the European Convention on Human Rights in 1950. (David Maxwell-Fyfe was the U.K.’s Deputy Chief Prosecutor at Nuremberg, and a key negotiator in the Council of Europe after the Second World War, and spoke for the U.K. at the signing ceremony). I wondered whether Lord Lawson was aware of the similarity of language and was deliberately evoking it; but what struck me equally forcefully was how the contexts were almost polar opposites. Continue reading Brexit and Beacons


Brexit and the misunderstanding of Democracy


“The people have spoken, and their wishes must be respected.” We have been hearing a lot of this recently, and not only from the majority who want to see what they voted for realised. There seems to be a broad acceptance of the proposition by the minority also.

I do not want to question democracy itself – as Churchill once famously observed,

No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…

But I do want to cast the spotlight on this curious understanding of what democracy means: that a bare majority of those voted on a particular day must prevail in the argument.

As an understanding of democracy, I think this is both reductive and insular. Reductive, because it is just not as simple as that in a modern social democracy. Insular, because it is not like that in many other modern social democracies. Somehow, it seems that winners and losers alike have caught onto a notion that the bare majority of those who voted on a particular day must prevail; seemingly unaware of the counter-arguments that regularly prevail elsewhere. Continue reading Brexit and the misunderstanding of Democracy

Two benefits of a Human Rights Act

I’m flagging up here a couple of posts by others, a couple of posts which I’m linking together as highlighting benefits of the Human Rights Act. Both are from bloggers I’d highly recommend following anyway – @DrMarkElliott‘s Public Law for Everyone and @SteveBroach‘s Rights in Reality. Both are about recent decisions of the Supreme Court. But since they’re both legal blogs, I hope the authors won’t mind if I go back a couple of steps for a non-legal audience.

Irrationality or proportionality?

There has been a long-running debate about what happens if the State (which includes central and local government and lots of officials and bodies which make decisions on behalf of the State) does something unreasonable. Decisions have been able to be challenged by a process called judicial review, but a very old case Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corporation [1947] EWCA Civ 1 (10 November 1947) gave its name to a long established principle, that you can’t win a judicial review just because the State is unreasonable. Continue reading Two benefits of a Human Rights Act

Briefing paper on non-consensual adoption and the law

Note: this was not originally written as a blog post, as you can probably tell…

1. Introduction

It is explicit in government policy that there has been a push towards more and faster adoption. This was notably so under Michael Gove, who was himself adopted:

In fact, the press for more adoption neither started nor ended with Michael Gove, and arguably more properly represents a pendulum swing, between a model of social work that favours family support (intervention to keep families together) and one that favours child rescue (intervention to give children a better life).

This paper sets out, only briefly, some of the legal issues that have arisen in relation to the policy push for adoption. In is underpinned by two broad points about the nature of the law: Continue reading Briefing paper on non-consensual adoption and the law

If the State wants to take your child, be prepared to represent yourself!

If you read one judgment this year, read this by Munby on legal aid: As scathing a judgment as you will ever read.

…wrote @JackofKent on Friday. I have read more than one judgment this year, but agree with the “must-read” label. This case ticks so many of my boxes in addition to what it says about legal aid. It’s also about:

  • social work and the law
  • the human right to a fair trial
  • principles of natural justice
  • non-consensual adoption
  • CRPD rights of parents with learning disabilities
  • the Rule of Law and the Separation of Powers

So I felt I really ought to try some commentary, especially when one tweeter asked Continue reading If the State wants to take your child, be prepared to represent yourself!

Doncaster Childrens Services Trust: how Colin Hilton is strong and independent

Three weeks ago, on 26th September 2014, Doncaster Childrens Services Trust (“DCST”) filed new Articles of Association – governance documents – with Companies House.

It may be recalled that Michael Gove had said that Childrens Services would be removed from the local authority. There was widespread concern about whether it would be handed to profit-making companies. DCST, however, was set up as a private company limited by guarantee. In February, Colin Hilton was appointed as the first chair of the new Trust, with Michael Gove saying of the Trust that,

It will provide a new model for the delivery of children’s social care services in England, one intended to drive improvement and innovation through strong independent leadership.

With these new Articles of Association, we get some glimpse of the legal mechanism whereby Colin Hilton will deliver strong independent leadership. It is perhaps fair that I point out this blog critiques these governance documents, rather than anything about his personal style or what is happening on the ground.

I want to comment on three things: Continue reading Doncaster Childrens Services Trust: how Colin Hilton is strong and independent

Protecting Human Rights in the UK: collated commentary

Just a quick compilation of some of the commentary on today’s Conservative’s Human Rights announcement.

Here is the document itself: “Protecting Human Rights in the UK

Here is it marked up by Carl Gardner @carlgardner at Head of Legal: ““Protecting Human Rights in the UK”: the Tory human rights plan

Commentary from:

Carl Gardner @carlgardner, author of the mark-up above “Full of Sound and Fury on Human Rights

Liberty @libertyhqLegally IlliterateContinue reading Protecting Human Rights in the UK: collated commentary

Cameron’s Cabinet – Plato’s Ship of Fools

I observed on twitter that the recent reshuffle reminded me of Plato’s ‘Ship of Fools’ critique of democracy. And that I would blog why…

Philosophy Now had a recent article on why Plato didn’t like democracy:

Imagine a sea-voyage on which all who are travelling feel entitled to claim the helm. Though the captain is a good navigator, he isn’t good at convincing the others that he is, and those who shout the loudest and make the most confident claims, though they know nothing of the skills of navigation, will get a go… Jonathan Wolff in his Introduction to Political Philosophy summarizes Plato’s argument like this: Ruling is a skill, like medicine or navigation. It is rational to leave the exercise of skills to experts. In a democracy, however, the people rule, and the people are not experts…

The reference to experts may make people both nervous and critical. Siegel and Kotkin write with concern about the “clerisy”, an elite comprising academia, the prestige press, and leaders in IT, finance and culture, assuming a superior position and holding the population in contempt. They paint the idea of rule by experts as unattractive, and of course anti-democratic, though this seems to be the position Plato would favour.

The immediate reason for my linking the latest reshuffle in my mind with Plato’s ‘Ship of Fools’ critique was Continue reading Cameron’s Cabinet – Plato’s Ship of Fools