Impunity and contempt in Government.

Impunity and contempt in Government.

Is it worse under Johnson? The short answer would seem to be “Yes”. None of the controls on Governments are law, they are all based on conventions and Parliamentary Sovereignty means that they are not permanent. (The recent habit of previously prohibited retrospective legislation and emergency parliamentary/legislative schedules also strengthens a Govt. and thus a Prime Minister’s hand.) But, it’s the shamelessness of Johnson and his Government which is the danger to democracy.

Respect for Parliament and politicians had been damaged by the expenses’ crisis but the Brexit referendum and its aftermath further damaged Parliament’s political legitimacy often at the hands of MPs who showed extreme cowardice in the face of the tumbrils pulled by UKIP’s donkeys.

The British people were fortunate that the decision to order the longest prorogue in modern times was able to be overturned by the courts even though the government argued that they didn’t have the power. Parliament also ripped up a further control when the SNP1 voted in 2019, to agree an election for reasons of sectarian advantage and fatally undermined the fixed term parliament act.

Since the election, there have been number of breaches of the ministerial code, involving money, influence or vote buying. This article from Yorkshire Bylines, dated March 20, details breaches by 11 cabinet members. There have also been an egregious corruption of the procurement process where they are now being pursued by the good law project, with the crowning glory the pursuit of the £37bn spent on a track and trace system that has never worked. The ‘levelling up’ initiative, once called Regional Policy is also the subject of both controversy and legal review being characterised as pork barrel politics.

 The current troubles aka partygate were started by Johnson and the Tory Whips’ attempts to rewrite what limited controls remained to save Owen Paterson, once the MP for Shropshire North from sanction for lobbying. The list of breaches is so long that Transparency International are calling for the Ministerial Code to be made law. This government has also has a series of breaches by most publicly Cummings and Hancock, of covid safety regulations culminating in today’s heavily redacted Grey Report, cataloguing 20 inappropriate events while the public could not visit relatives in care.

This impunity is reflected in policy making by Priti Patel as Home Secretary, not only did May kick her out for off-piste foreign policy and breaches of the ministerial code, she was taken to tribunals for bullying and the Home Office is being sued by its own watchdog for breaching the withdrawal agreement as it applied to EU citizens in the UK. This impunity was also shown in the trade negotiations led by Lord Frost with the threats to break the agreement in contradiction to international law and the threats to void the Northern Ireland Protocol.

There is a culture of impunity running through this government, underpinned by Parliamentary Sovereignty, a fake definition of national sovereignty and a party majority in the Commons reinforced by what would seem an unwillingness of the police or other regulators to investigate crimes committed by govt. ministers.

We have no basic law nor it would seem today a police force willing to pursue wrong doing in Whitehall.

ooOOOoo

This was originally written as part of a longer article, but I have decided it doesn’t fit in that article and so here we are.


[1] The SNP gave Johnson a 50% majority in the House, and were quickly followed by the LibDems and then Labour split with many of them voting for the election. There is an alternative view that the FTPA transferred the power to call an election from the PM to parliament and parliament just decided not to go through the vote of confidence, the requirement for a supermajority and a waiting period. …

Compliance in Government

Compliance in Government

It’s hard to understand what’s happening inside Johnson’s Cabinet, but there has been much, mainly adverse comment on the appointment of Suella Braverman as Attorney General. The AG is the Government’s Lawyer and there have been great lawyers performing this role, in fact often, Government’s have made their chosen candidates members of the House of Lords so that they can get the talent they need without having to filter it through the choices of their local associations/CLPs. You can find comments about the suitability of Ms Braverman elsewhere, but many commentators are worried about the resuscitation of the Tory demand to leave the ECHR and the Home Office’s continued breaking of the law.

Human Rights law is written to protect people from the power of the state!

Another thing that worries me is that I have observed in business, the growing organisational dichotomy between legal departments and compliance. The former tells a company what it can do, and the latter what it can’t and grasses the company up if it believes itself to be in breach of the law. It’s important that Government, particularly the Home Office and DWP get good and safe advice from their legal team, especially if they plan to weaken access to judicial review.

Image Credit: from flickr, CC Marco Vetch 2018 BY …

Mass Action or Court Action

I have today posted a limited review of Orgcon17 which happened last year. One of the most provocative presentations was this one, “Is the law the best way to stop mass surveillance?” While it documents the heroic struggle by a small group of fiercely motivated lawyers, it’s incredibly slow at the time, the court cases considered in 2017 related to 2015 laws and by the time the rulings came through the law in question had been replaced, but while pursuing legal action, mass action is hard, although crowdjustice.com and other petition sites allow the building of an on-line communities.

The presentation made me think about the numerous, trade union legal actions on collective bargaining issues, most notably their pursuit and criminalisation of Uber. In these cases, the use of the law is a sign of weakness, albeit of both sides, but demos and voting aren’t enough to change politicians minds on issues they consider peripheral. …

Citizens not Suspects

Citizens not Suspects

The Guardian reports that Privacy International are going to court to get the UK Government banned from using the USA’s ‘intelligence’ obtained via their Prism programme, and to suspend the UK’s equivalent programme, the GCHQ’s Tempora programme.

Privacy International argue that the UK agencies’ use of NSA supplied data is illegal since there is no warrant and no notification and no appeal; which is a problem when there is no ‘probable cause’. In order for GCHQ to intercept someone, they’d need a warrant issued under RIPA. This looks to be  an example of the two agencies outsourcing the surveillance of their own citizenry, since they are prohibited from doing so. i.e. GCHQ is spying on Yanks, and the NSA returns the favour by spying on Brits. Both agencies need a warrant to spy on their own citizens, but not on foreigners. …

Save Lewisham A&E – Hunt’s broken the Law

Save Lewisham A&E – Hunt’s broken the Law

Hunt’s closure of Lewisham A&E ruled illegal by the High Court, and here’s how various supporters of the campaign reacted.

Mark, the artist taxi driver seems to like swearing, a lot! What he seems to like swearing about and at is the Tories! This isn’t a problem for me, in fact I find him funny, but some may find his language offensive. Of course, what he’s talking about is pretty offensive. …

What should Lewisham Labour do next?

What should Lewisham Labour do next?

Some thoughts from New Cross Labour,

Lewisham’s Labour Group have launched an internet consultation, at Lewisham Together , a wordpress site, http://lewishamtogether.wordpress.com/, anyone can contribute ideas to Labour’s Manifesto for Lewisham’s Mayor and Labour Group.  The Labour Party has been choosing candidates over the last six months and campaigning on the doorstep since they won back control of the council in 2010. As part of the consultation, Mayor Steve Bullock came to New Cross Labour Party to talk about the next administration. Members of neighbouring Brockley Ward were also invited, which is how I got there. …

Judicial Review of the Digital Economy Act

BT & Talk Talk, the two largest UK internet Service Providers (ISP) went to court towards the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 to obtain a judicial review of the Digital Economy Act, a law passed in the dying days of the last Labour Government. This law is designed to place duties on internet service providers to act on the instruction and on behalf of copyright holders and to authorise Web site blocking. On the 20th April, Mr. Justice Parker delivered his judgement.

This article is a personal summary of that ruling. The judgement is awfully hard to read and understand. I have an economics degree and nine years of Civil Service training! Actual quotes should be obvious, other representations are in my words, not those of the judgement. In some places I have got lost in the text of the judgement and while my summary is much shorter than the original, it remains pretty long. The impatient or easily satisfied can skip straight to the summary. …