Friday, December 17
Blair Defies Law Lords
It appears that the new Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, is going to defy the Lords. I have just heard, with mounting incredulity, Jack Straw say on Radio 4 that although he "...respects the House of Lords' right to make the decision", that actually the Court of Appeal found in the government's favour, so they must be right not to act to free the detainees. Apparently, according to Straw, the government's first duty is no longer to uphold the rule of law and democracy, but to protect the country from terrorism. Who decided that then?
There is no way he was briefed to say this to the media without Prime Ministerial and Cabinet approval.
Jack Straw is a barrister. He knows exactly how the law works and he knows how precedent works. A House of Lords decision overrules everything but the European courts. The House of Lords is the supreme court of the land. It met in full session to make this decision.It cannot be overruled by the executive. What part of that can a lawyer not understand? The Government is obliged to implement the court's decision: the balance of judicial, executive and legislature requires it. Parliament passes the law, the executive implements it, and the judiciary rules on the legality of the substance and the application of that law. That's the way our constitution works, and the government knows this. Blair, as a barrister himself, knows this well. It's Constitutional Law 101.
This makes the threat by New Labour to face down the House of Lords that much more arrogant and potentially dangerous. This is not about a few activist judges, as Blunkett would've had it: this about the Labour Party controlled executive and a serving Prime Minister refusing to obey lawful authority. If a serving government and ministers refuse to obey the law, where does that put the rest of us?
We have an unwritten constitution in England (with which concept I disagree; I think we should have a Bill of Rights, but that's not relevant here just now) which relies on consensus and agreed convention to continue, and it has done so on that basis for a thousand years. The continued existence of the unwritten consitution rests on a delicate balance of powers, and the tacit understanding that no elected government will act in an irrational or illegal way so as to unbalance those powers. Should a government do so, the courts are there to correct the imbalance.
And here Blair is, deliberately wrecking that balance, by attacking the decision of the supreme court that Parliament and the Executive acted unlawfully. Oh, but it's not Tony saying it, is it? He's sent his apparatchiks. Hasn't even got the guts to defy our constitution himself, the backstabbing coward.
I know I'm banging a drum here, but Blair is blinded by hubris totally if he thinks he''s going to take on the judiciary and the constitution as well as the BBC and Civil Service. They've already done for Blunkett because of his illiberality and incipient fascism, and they'll do for Blair too. Blair has been spending way to much time with Bush and Berlusconi, who both see it as their divine right as Presidents to be supreme leader and ride roughshod over all consitutional protections. Their respective legislatures have colluded with them in this, but if Blair thinks ours will do the same he should think again.
If Blair thought the Blunkett affair was messy and embarassing, has he got a treat in store for him when the actual powers in the country (as opposed to the temporary place-holders of New Labour) decide to act against him. But first lets see him have the guts to make a public statement instead of sending his proxies to do his dirty work.
11/28/2004 - 12/05/2004