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→
“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→
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.
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).
…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:
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.
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.