In the past few months, I’ve given over a couple of posts to the Labour Party and human rights. See my report of Yvette Cooper’s speech, or Sadiq Khan’s speech, for example. As such, its worth bookmarking a recent Daily Telegraph piece by Khan, on the Human Rights Act, and Britain’s relationship with the European Court of Human Rights. The lay-reader may appreciate a quick overview of these human rights mechanisms. First, the European Convention on Human Rights incorporates basic protections into a Europe-wide treaty. The UK government must protect human rights because it has signed a treaty saying it shall do so—the rights have not been ‘imposed’ on us by European bureaucrats. The convention also establishes a court (at Strasbourg) to hear cases of human rights abuses. We in UK and the other signatory states are bound by the rulings of the court because we chose to sign the treaty. Continue reading “How British values influence the European Court of Human Rights”
It’s rare that I’m at odds with that über efficient mass progressive campaigning movement, 38 Degrees, but today I am. Their latest campaign is in favour of an MP ‘recall’ system.
MPs can be sent to prison, can fiddle their expenses or break their promises and we can only get rid of them on election day.
The answer, they say, is a ‘recall’ law by which 10% of the electorate could sign a petition that forces a by-election. I disagree with this idea for reasons of pragmatism and principle. First, a recall law could used to hack and disrupt the political system. Continue reading “Against recalls”
As is my wont, I made a book to illustrate this. Physical objects are useful props in debates like this: immediately illustrative, and useful to hang an argument and peoples’ attention on.
James Bridle is probably best known as the artist who first articulated ‘The New Aesthetic‘, but he has run many projects on books and technology. His project ‘The Iraq War‘ is a favourite of mine – the entire Wikipedia Edit History of the ‘Iraq War’ article, from 2005-2009, which stretches to twelve volumes. He’s also the creator of a Book of Tweets. James’ projects are the inspiration of one of my own – The Defamation Act 2013: Complete & Unabridged. It collects together, in chronological order, every single parliamentary document published during the passage of the recent reform of our libel law. These include the various versions of the Bill (which I have previously published in a spliced together version, ‘Tracked Changes in the Defamation Bill‘), the parliamentary Hansard transcripts of the debates; and the amendment papers. Continue reading “The Defamation Act 2013: Complete & Unabridged”
The #EqualMarriage timeline on Twitter is full of people praising Queen Elizabeth II for approving the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. There is a strong sense of knowing irony steaming off those messages. I feel that most of the people celebrating the new law think its rather ridiculous that the approval of the Monarch is still required. What a relief, then, to learn that actually, Queen Elizabeth II did not formally approve the new law. ‘Royal Assent’ is actually a procedural step in the House of Lords. The monarch is invoked in the process, but she is not personally involved in the decision. From the Wikipedia page:
This matters, because we should recognise that this pro-family reform of the law is the work of Parliament and Democracy. It is not a gift to us from the Establishment. It is not that ‘La Reyne’ or ‘Le Roy’ wills it… but that the people of the United Kingdom have willed it. That’s important. Benjamin Cohen, a long-term campaigner for the reform, has the right formulation:
As of right now #EqualMarriage is the law 🙂 Thanks peers and MPs for doing this for our community! First weddings next year 🙂
The Alan Turing Statutory Pardon Bill has been published on the Houses of Parliament website. Turing was a mathematician and philosopher who cracked the Nazi Enigma code and invented electronic computing. He was also a homosexual, and was convicted of ‘Gross indecency between men’ in 1952. As a result he lost his security clearance, was subjected to chemical castration, and committed suicide when he was only 42. This statutory pardon seeks to atone for the Government’s appalling treatment of a national hero. Nevertheless, the idea of such a narrow pardon worries me a little. The implication seems to be that Turing gets a pardon because he achieved so much. But that should not be how the law and justice works. What about all those under-achievers and ordinary men who were convicted under the same iilliberal and unjust law? Why do they not get a pardon too?
There’s a little bit of confusion over what happened during the Defamation Bill debate in the House of Lords yesterday afternoon, and today in the House of Commons. This is understandable, as the ‘ping-pong’ process is confusing, with ‘motions to agree amendments’… and amendments to those amendments. The only issue at stake was was hurdles should be placed before companies wishing to sue. The pre-exising law allows corporates to bully critics with libel threats and a legal ‘reputation management’ industry has emerged, with websites and bloggers receiving threats unless they remove critical content. Which?, the consumer magazine that reviews products, often receives a legal threat after they give a product a poor rating! In an earlier parliamentary debate, Labour succeeded in adding a significant clause to the Defamation Bill. It introduced a permissions stage for companies (you can’t sue without leave of the court) and asked them to show financial loss. It also extended the Derbyshire principle, so private bodies delivering public services could not sue when they are criticised by citizens questioning how taxpayers money is spent. Three measures in one clause. Continue reading “What the hell just happened with the Defamation Bill?”
Excuse me if I go off on a technical rant for a moment. I find it very irritating when people don’t use HTML mark-up properly. I can forgive the occasional user, or those relying on WYSIWYG editors, but for large, professionally coded websites, there is no excuse for mark-up which does not apply standards correctly. What has vexed me so? The Houses of Parliament website. In many ways this is a great resource. They offer video of parliamentary debates, and the Hansard of the previous day’s proceedings is posted promptly the following moring. However, the underlying mark-up is flawed. Continue reading “The mess under the bonnet of the Houses of Parliament website”