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Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

A constitutional note to Tony Blair

The way the British system works is that the legislature makes the laws, and the judiciary then applies them. If, as head of the executive (and therefore the person responsible for ensuring that new laws that pass through the legislature are well-written and clear in intention) you fail in your duty of providing good laws, then blaming the judiciary for applying them in the way set out in the legislation you are responsible for having drawn-up is pathetic buck-passing.

In other words, Tony, if the Human Rights Act is flawed (which it arguably is), then it is not the judges’ fault – it is yours. And after nine years of successive bad laws having been orchestrated by you and your government, one might argue that rather than reforming the judiciary it is instead time to make changes to the executive which has given the judges so many bad laws to apply. Starting at the very top.

It is certainly not an indication that new laws are necessary, when it is in fact perfectly feasible – not to mention significantly faster and cheaper – merely to amend the laws which you cocked up when passing in the first place.

With such a basic lack of understanding of the British legal system you have to wonder just how our dear Prime Minister ever managed to qualify as a lawyer.

Update: Forgot to mention – the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill remains one of the very worst of all Blair’s bad laws – even after the supposed concessions. Its broad wording and lack of any real specificity, backed up as this is by government assurances that the bill will not be used in dangerous ways when passed (without incuding any such safeguards in the wording of the bill itself) are typical of Blairite legislation. Judges, when faced with such vague legislation, have no choice but to interpret it to the letter. So despite the assurances, the judiciary would have no choice but to back any minister who decided unilaterally to abolish elections or the right to trial as, thanks to the current vague wording of the bill, this would be entirely within the law.

6 Comments

  1. The fact is, stories are legion about Blair's love of cash. Couple that with the enormous sums of cash that a lawyer can earn.

    You have to come to the conclusion that, had Tony been even a half-way decent lawyer, he'd still be one.

  2. Exactly. Judges can only rule based on the law. If their rulings defy "common sense", then that is the fault of the law, not the judge.

  3. Nosemonkey, old bean, just a little note to point out that the judiciary are not bound to apply the letter of the law, but may, and indeed do apply a purposive interpretation. For a recent example, see the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Haw's case (which I've covered over at my blog).

  4. Very true – but if the laws are so badly written that "sensible" interpretations are precluded, they don't really have much of a choice other than to stick as close as they can to the letter. And we've all seen what happens when judges criticise government legislation – they get wallopped with the full might of the Whitehall PR machine.

    Funny – I was reading a bit of Mencken the other day, writing (in the 1920s, of course) about how the British judiciary is widely respected while parliament is held in contempt. Wouldn't it be lovely if Blair and co's assault on the judges gets us to the stage where NONE of the organs of state are worthy of anything other than contempt?

  5. Did you know there is a rumor going around Washington that Blair is stepping down next week? I wouldn't give it much credence, except, the NSA knows an awful lot these days.

  6. "you have to wonder just how our dear Prime Minister ever managed to qualify as a lawyer."

    Justin beat me to it, so to make this more worthwhile, I'll add in Hunter Thompson, who described politicians, among other things, as "unemployed lawyers, pimps and stockbrokers"

    There's also the extra egomaniacal bit with Blair, where he might well have thought that merely earning a tit load of money alongside some other lawyers wasn't good enough for him, he needed to prove he was the best etc…