Rosencrantz, Guildernstern, Coronavirus Incubators and The Rule of Law Are All Dead

One of the awful things about COVID-19 is that the moment of infection passes unnoticed. It’s the asymptomatic period that drives up the exponential spread and makes it so difficult to stop. This point by Christina Paget is chilling:

Those who die, do so after about two weeks in hospital on average. This means that almost all the people who are going to die from covid over the next four weeks already have covid.

Christina Paget, ‘A circuit-break will save thousands of lives’ Politics.co.uk

There’s a marvellous line at the end of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently:

GUILDENSTERN: There must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we could have said — no. But somehow we missed it.

Continue reading “Rosencrantz, Guildernstern, Coronavirus Incubators and The Rule of Law Are All Dead”

The Undermining the Rule of Law Bill

Undermining the Rule of Law Bill

This comment by David Allen Green on Monday has stuck in my mind.

David also notes that the solution to this constitutional wrecking is political, and the challenge is to make the public care. Continue reading “The Undermining the Rule of Law Bill”

Vagueness, Overbreadth and Unbridled Discretion in Law-making

Covid Positive sign in window

This crazy story about a university claiming that posters in a window “break the law” is a good example of how chaotic and inconsistent law-making can lead to a denial of liberty. Quick thread. #

I’ve been doing some reading on the ‘chilling effect’ recently. It’s usually used with regards to freedom of expression, but it’s a term imported from US legal thought, and can be applied to any kind of liberty or lawful activity. #

Supreme Court Justice William Brennan warned of how a ‘chill’ can be “generated by vagueness, overbreadth and unbridled discretion” of laws/state powers used to curb speech. (Dissent in Walker v City of Birmingham, 388 US 307 in 1967) # Continue reading “Vagueness, Overbreadth and Unbridled Discretion in Law-making”

Talking About Coronavirus Testing Inefficiencies on the BBC

I have some mild coronavirus-like symptoms. Its probably nothing, but now everyone in our household needs a test. Life and work are on hold while we struggle to get an appointment, and then wait for the results.

Yesterday morning I spoke to Vanessa Feltz on the BBC Radio London Breakfast show about my frustrations. You can listen below or on SoundCloud. The full show is available on BBC Sounds for 30 days.
Continue reading “Talking About Coronavirus Testing Inefficiencies on the BBC”

Cold Take: The EU Referendum Act should have included implementation provisions

For A Thing, I’ve been reading the court judgments in the controversial Brexit cases brought by Gina Miller.

The first of these was R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2016] EWHC 2768 (Admin) and [2017] UKSC 5.

The outcome of the case is well known. Theresa May wanted to send the Article 50 notification to Brussels, and believed she could do so without recourse to parliament, because the making and breaking of treaties is a prerogative power. The claimants disagreed, saying that parliament had created new domestic rights and a new source of law when it enacted the European Communities Act 1972, which only parliament could undo.

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Accessibility, Freedom of Information and the Faulks Reports (plural)

Last month, the government announced the membership of the panel who will undertake a ‘review of administrative law’ and published some terms of reference. The chair of the panel will be Lord Edward Faulks, who many fear has already made up his mind that the boundaries of judicial review have strayed too far into political matters: in February, he wrote an article for Conservative Home in which he suggested that the Supreme Court’s decision in Miller/Cherry [2019] UKSC 41 (concerning the controversial prorogation of parliament) was “an assertion of judicial power that cannot be justified by constitutional law or principle.”

Judicial review is of crucial importance to any democracy. It allows the judicial branch of government to check the power of the executive branch of government, to ensure that elected and appointed officials do not exceed the powers given to them by the legislative branch of government. It is a means to prevent corruption and to protect the citizen against, as the Conservative Party manifesto put it [PDF, page 48], an “overbearing state.” Continue reading “Accessibility, Freedom of Information and the Faulks Reports (plural)”

If You Have Time, I Think I Would Find The Answers To These Questions Helpful

  • What is the top thing that your ideological opponents misrepresent about your position?
  • What is the top thing that your opponents say is a tenet of your position, but about which there is in fact much disagreement between you and your allies?
  • What’s the worst argument that people on your side put forward for your position?
  • What’s your opponent’s best argument?

Borges, Maynard, Funes, Harper’s and Depp

Long time followers will be aware of my love of the writing of Jorge Luis Borges. A couple of this week’s news stories have a Borgesian flavour to them. Or rather, they give rise to old themes that Borges articulates very well. #

The first of these is ‘The Letter’ – an open letter signed by prominent writers and academics published in Harper’s Magazine, bemoaning the rise of cancel culture. It seems to have divided Twitter, with many people criticising the generic text based upon those who signed it. #

Continue reading “Borges, Maynard, Funes, Harper’s and Depp”

Sometimes ‘Cancel Culture’ *Is* A Free Speech Issue

A letter in Harper’s Magazine, supporting the principle of free speech and bemoaning ‘cancel culture,’ has caused something of a stir. At least, on Twitter.

In itself, the letter is unobjectionable. However, many people think it is an ill-timed, coded rebuke to the social justice campaigns of the moment:

I think the uproar is more about the timing and the context in which this letter engages (BLM, TERF wars etc), which feels very dog whistle-y.

@sysh

Others have ridiculed its premise and the signatories. They say that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences, and that if an audience reacts negatively to something they find offensive, that is merely a manifestation of free speech.

Continue reading “Sometimes ‘Cancel Culture’ *Is* A Free Speech Issue”