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A *real* bill of rights – circumventing the Executive

Henry Porter at the Observer has written a magnificent piece on the government’s castration of rights and liberties. Some of his insights that Geeklawyer thought were his alone:

Parliamentary democracy is a sham: the Executive pwns Parliament because of whipping and candidate selection by parties.

A genuine bill of rights could be embedded in an unwritten or written constitution to make Executive abuse problematic.

‘rights and responsibilities’  a phrase much in vogue among government asserts that rights are those given by the government as a favour and for which one pays with ‘responsibilities’.

Unelected judges are a safeguard for the citizen. It is an unelected judiciary, not vulnerable to bigoted populism, that will stand the best chance of stemming Executive excess.

Well worth a read.

March 9, 2008 - Posted by | civil liberties


  1. Porter is always worth reading… and this week’s piece was excellent.

    Trust you are recovered from your CAMRA escapades?

    Comment by charonqc | March 9, 2008 | Reply

  2. […] thanks to Geeklawyer for reminding me of an excellent piece by Henry Porter in the Observer today – an excellent […]

    Pingback by Weekend Review 8 - 9 March « Charon QC…the blawg | March 9, 2008 | Reply

  3. GL… thanks for reminding me about this. Read it this morning. It reads even better on the seconmd reading. he has many good points – we are gradually losing our freedom.

    I have voted Labour for much of my voting life… I am going to put a foot in the other camp by voting for Boris for London Mayor… but…. there is only one Boris. (Apart from that excellent other Boris – former President of Russia. A man who knew how to enjoy a drink. A pity he is dead. He would have given the ultimate podcast, I suspect.)

    Comment by charonqc | March 9, 2008 | Reply

  4. Let us hope that Comrade Brown, High Kommissar of the British Politburo does not feel the need to replace the entire senior judiciary….

    Comment by charonqc | March 9, 2008 | Reply

  5. Geek & Charon,

    I am not a lawyer, so bow to your superior wisdom. The problem, that I see is that there is no mechanism for preserving freedoms and rights. The executive wants to expand its powers and there is nothing to stop it from doing so.

    Comment by james c | March 10, 2008 | Reply

  6. James: ultimately you are right: guns beat gavels. Zimbabwe has a decent constitution, and at one point a robust judiciary, but the gangster Mugabe (can I risk another complaint to the police and say I really hope someone shoots him? yea.) has all the real power. The police are under his control and disobey the courts as does he.

    But that is the extreme position there are many mechanisms under theories of constitutional law for so called ’embedding’ which elevate some legislation above others and above the the power of Parliament to amend or overturn in the normal course of political activity.

    Comment by geeklawyer | March 10, 2008 | Reply

  7. Charon, I have little knowledge of Boris Johnson beyond the buffoon persona but I am sick of Ken Livingstone’s hypocrisy and newly acquired New Labour outlook. I was once a strong supporter, and think now that an alternative would be great.

    But really all politicians suck arse simply because it is a cancerous occupation.

    Comment by geeklawyer | March 10, 2008 | Reply

  8. Government is too important to be entrusted to politicians.

    Comment by Not a Criminal Lawyer | March 10, 2008 | Reply

  9. Geek,

    Unfortunately the present government does not need to resort to guns-if it wants to spy on us all, the courts seem to present little obstacle.

    Comment by james c | March 11, 2008 | Reply

  10. GL – if you haven’t seen it already then I recommend the film V for Vendetta. In some ways just a bit of fun, but seen in the context of Porter’s article it’s an all-too-realistic portrayal of the direction our society might be headed.

    Plus the fact it has knife fights and explosions, one of which takes out the Old Bailey.

    Comment by Usefully Employed | March 11, 2008 | Reply

  11. UE: I have seen the film & I reviewed it here.

    Comment by geeklawyer | March 11, 2008 | Reply

  12. One step ahead as usual – you’re right in that the dystopian fantasy can’t keep up with the news. When you watched it the final dramatic scene had already been criminalised by the government of day, I watch it yesterday and reflect that the compulsory Articles of Allegiance in the film = asking yobbo teenagers to swear an oath to ‘er Maj.

    Comment by Usefully Employed | March 11, 2008 | Reply

  13. Porter has been banging on about this for eons. It’s going to make no difference whatsoever as long as the politicians, like this lawyer even, who hold the levers of power have the gall to write such drivel for the lumpen masses

    Rights will be theirs, to tell us what we are allowed to think, say and do. Responsibilities will be ours insofar as we will be obliged to do as we are told. Prisons are what they are building for us for when we object.

    Comment by Scunnered, O'Aberdein | March 11, 2008 | Reply

  14. Usefully employed. It is a while since I have seeen the excellent word ‘dystopian’…. I enjoy words – used to have ‘word of the week’ on my blog.

    I may well have to revive it.

    Dystopina… I shal shoehorn it into the conversation when I am next down at The Bollo.

    I’m sorry not to have added to the debate with this aside – but, having just recovered from five days of a rather unpleasing medical condition – the word dystopian has brought me pleasure this night.

    Merci… gracie…. danke… etc. I’m thinking about becoming a European.

    Now… I am off to self prescribe one last glass of a monarchist wine – rioja… naturalamente…

    Buona notte tutti … is that European enough?

    Ah… Newsnight has started… have to go!

    Comment by charonqc | March 11, 2008 | Reply

  15. Forgive typo above… Most men, as they grow older find that their ears and nose are growing bigger (perhaps women as well, who knows, I have never examined the ears of old women)

    In my case… my fingers are getting bigger and, tonight, clearly far bigger than last night.

    I did mean to type ‘dystopia’… not dystopina’…. mind you… “Dystopina Grigio’… sounds like a rather good name for a sharp white wine… n’est ce pas?

    Comment by charonqc | March 11, 2008 | Reply

  16. Mind… you.. Dystopina noir.. would be a red… of course… bien sur?

    I may have to apply to become a Euro MP at this rate… such is my new found interest in matters European…

    What are the expenses like for Euro MPs… What about ‘The Court of Auditors’ refusing to sign the EU accounts… that sort of thing… anyone know?…. would be obliged if you could advise….

    No point in becoming an MP these days… various politicos have blown the gaffe on employing friends, children and claiming expenses without ‘oversight’… mind you.. there is still that 400 quid a month to go for… without having to get receipts. That should take care of the Rioja bill…

    No… I think being a Euro MP may be the way to go…

    Bon nuit Mesdames et Monsieurs… etc etc

    Charon … the new European

    Comment by charonqc | March 11, 2008 | Reply

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