Archive for January, 2010

A brief exchange on twitter – politics.

I am not a Tory, but I do read and enjoy Iain Dales blog. I  read the transcript of John Sopel’s interview with David Cameron on The Politics today.  (See my weekly Postcard below) I was surprised at how poorly Cameron performed and was very surprised by some of the answers Cameron gave to Sopel’s very well structured and focused questions.  I do appreciate that politicians work long hours and have many pressures and cannot always deliver killer speeches during interviews.  Cameron, however, is putting himself forward as a prime minister in waiting and this interview with a well known interviewer on a well known politics show, in my view, does not show him at his best.

Tweetminster noted earlier this evening that ‘sentiment’ about Cameron had fallen following the Cameron / Sopel interview.I asked Iain Dale a number of questions this evening on twitter.

I have put them in chronological order…in terms of my typing.  Time lags for responses do occur and I sent Iain more tweets than he responded to – inevitably this can happen on twitter.  I have set the tweets out in the chronological order of the way Iain responded which, apart from the Chilcot question (which was not addressed to Iain dale specifically,  was as near as dammit chronological in time as well.  Please remember this was a casual twitter exchange and not an ‘interview’ – that is why twitter is both interesting and not always to be relied on as a public debate / analysis forum.  Iain was responding, as he often does, to a fellow tweeter on a Sunday evening and not being questioned formally  for a more mainstream public medium. This is not to say that his responses would have been any different.

The first tweet was my response to reading Cameron/Sopel interview


Truly dreadful performance by Cameron when torn apart by Sopel on The Politics – astonishing https://charonqc.wordpress.com waffle waffle…


Exchange between myself and Iain Dale


@iaindale What is your take on Cameron’s performance on the Politics / Sopel

  1. iaindale @Charonqc You are confusing Cameron’s interview with Mandelson’s. 20 minutes ago from TweetDeck in reply to Charonqc

  1. Charonqc

    @iaindale No.. this one… http://page.politicshome.com/uk/article/5215/burglars_leave_their_human_rights_at_the_door_says_cameron.html 16 minutes ago from web in reply to iaindale


  1. @iaindale Not poking… genuinely interested because you are an objective Tory…. a bit worrying in parts? 15 minutes ago from web in reply to iaindale

  1. iaindale

    @Charonqc Not at all. I assume u r talking about his burglar comments. Totally agree with him. 14 minutes ago from TweetDeck in reply to Charonq

  1. Charonqc

    @iaindale No… his failure to give cut figures and his view of Chilcot et al? Again… not poking… but interested. 4 minutes ago from web in reply to iaindale

  1. iaindale

    @Charonqc I dont expect him to give figures until nearer election. He needs to give general direction not minute details. 3 minutes ago from TweetDeck in reply to Charonq

  1. Charonqc

    Does David cameron have any understand of the Chilcot Inquiry/International law? Doesn’t seem so https://charonqc.wordpress.com Worrying 18 minutes ago from we

  1. Charonqc

    @iaindale Would you say that this interview does credit to Cameron as a prime minister in waiting? 2 minutes ago from web in reply to iaindale

  1. Charonqc

    @iaindale Yes.. I accept that…My last tweet is perhaps the one I should have started with.. Thanks for responding.. less than a minute ago from web in reply to iaindale

  1. iaindale

    @Charonqc I saw nothing in it which would indicate otherwise. half a minute ago from TweetDeck in reply to Charon


@iaindale Thank you.. 12 minutes ago from web in reply to iaindale

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Dear Reader,

This is my last weekend Postcard from the Staterooms-On-Sea.  I leave Chatham Maritime on the Medway for London next week; returning to live in Battersea, right on the river opposite the boat I used to live on at Cheyne Walk.  This is not a permanent return.  I feel like a Tuareg, moving my tent and furniture about every six months or so.  I rather like the idea of being able to move about the country and pitch my tent metaphorically in different places.  I have enjoyed my time in kent – but I need a bit more of a social life. The apartment is right on the river overlooking the Thames to Chelsea and about 50 years from the very pleasant Battersea Square. (Right)

I’ve just finished reading a fascinating transcript of an interview with David Cameron by John Sopel of the BBC on The Politics Show. It is quite extraordinary, barely months before the election, that Cam & Dec haven’t got their act together on the specifics of the cuts they are going to impose. Save for those who will vote Tory come what may, how are other voters going to make an informed decision unless they are given details.  Cameron waffled badly in this interview, allowing Sopel to plunge the toasting fork into Cameron’s buttocks several times.  It was like the scene in Tom Brown’s Schooldays when Flashman toasted the young Tom Brown in front of the fire.

Here are a few of the Sopel questions. The answers are worth reading…

I’m sorry to interrupt you, I just want to interrupt you on that because is it that you haven’t identified what the year one cuts will be and therefore can’t tell us, or that you have identified them but now is not the time to tell us?

I want to rattle through some of the specifics where you have pledged, I just want to check that those specifics are still in place, for example on inheritance tax even though there are only a couple of thousand estates, a few thousand people would be affected by it, that commitment, policy commitment remains?

No going back on that one?

And now I want to go to where I think there are, really ambiguity is a good word to use for it. What about recognising tax, recognising marriage in the tax system? Where are you on that because this is going into a right mess at the beginning of the year?

You’ve had two years to work out the answer to that. You launched something and then it kind of all collapsed.

I’m not asking for the detail of everything but for, you’ve had four years to work this one out and you haven’t worked it out.

And then Cameron launched into his ‘Kill a Burglar ‘ speech and made the remarkable statement that burglars leave their human rights at the door. I’m astonished that a prime minister in waiting can make such a statement.

Well we think that the, the proposal has been put forward which is to say that unless the action you take as a homeowner is grossly disproportionate, so you’re raising the bar effectively, that that will be a good step forward. Now if you can find a different –

How have you turned that into law because –

Well I’ve given you two words – grossly disproportionate. That’s –

You can use proportionate force, you just can’t use grossly disproportionate force?

Oh dear… Cameron is not very good at thinking on his feet, it would seem and his side-kick Osbore doesn’t seem to be good at thinking at all.

Interestingly… this from Tweetminster at 6.15 pm this evening:

tweetminster Sentiment (on Twitter) around David Cameron has dropped following Politics Show (& the resulting coverage) http://bit.ly/dAjy1V

Having re-read this grilling of Cameron by Sopel – irrespective of the fact that i am supposed to be ‘socialist’… Cameron worries me. Nothing seems to be structured, coherent, thought out.  This is not really good enough for a prospective prime minister who has had some years to work things out.  Waffle just doesn’t cut it in tutorials with first year students… it certainly doesn’t when it comes to policy statements from a man who puts himself forward as the next prime minister.  Kenneth Clarke?  too late for a Conservative leadership challenge?

AND THIS IS THE KILLER QUESTION FROM SOPEL… Very clever as it reveals that Cameron has no understanding whatsoever of International Law, the ICC or what Chilcot is about… tragic… and I am sure that Sopel must have thought very carefully about that question…

Yeah, do you understand why some people say Tony Blair ought to be tried for war crimes?

Well I don’t, I don’t think it’s come to that. He’s, he’s giving an account of himself as we are speaking right now. I haven’t been able to see that. Let’s let Chilcot do his work and do his report, and then I think we can make more of a judgment.

This is rather worrying?

The Law Society gazette ran an astonishing story this week:

Website for blacklisted solicitors plans expansion

While I am n favour of the Solicitors Regulatory Authority publishing reports of disciplinary proceedings taken against solicitors – I am not so sure the Solicitorsfromhell site is an altogether fair way of dealing with complaints. Quite apart from possible issues of libel and unfairness (the owner of the site says he has been threatened with libel by solicitors) – it is not an analytical or objective forum.  The site does not appear to permit of a dissent or an alternative viewpoint under each listing post.  Mr Kordowski has this notice on the front page of his website:

Note to Solicitors and Firms:

An internet directory or search engine (such as this) is NOT a publisher at common law, just a facilitator.
As held by Mr Justice Eady on July 19 2009.

The Law Society Gazette reports: ” Solicitorsfromhell.co.uk allows visitors to post complaints about law firms and individual solicitors. The postings appear on Google within 24 hours. Kordowski said that he set the website up because he was ‘shocked’ about the number of complaints made about solicitors. He maintained that he is carrying out a public service that is also of benefit to the ­profession. Law firms can pay £299 to have all current and future traces of their name removed from the site. Alternatively, they can pay between £99 and £199 to have specific postings deleted. Visitors are charged a fee for posting a complaint about a firm.” (Mr Kordowski says that visitors to the site are NOT charged a fee)

Gary Slapper, of the Open University (who is always worth reading in The Times) has a truly weird case this weekand I mean W E I R D

“In the film The Matrix, Keanu Reeves plays a character who moves in and out of the real world. He might have thought he was having a similar experience while defending a recent legal action in Canada. Reeves was sued by Karen Sala, a woman he said he had never met but who claimed that he had disguised himself as her husband and, over 25 years, fathered her four children.”

RollonFriday has a classic this week: Exclusive – Eversheds partner questions parent’s commitment
Eversheds has admitted that it had to carry out an investgation after one of its partners sent a email to a colleague wondering how to deal with an interviewee who had recently had a child.

Delighted to see that the Spacehijackers, who painted their armoured car in Police colours to attend the G20 protests last year, are not going to face charges. The CPS appears to have used the common sense test… “

A theatre group charged with impersonating police officers at the G20 protests are planning to sue the Metropolitan Police after the Crown Prosecution Service dropped all charges.

Eleven protesters, billing themselves as the Space Hijackers and portraying themselves as the “laughing cavaliers of capitalism”, were arrested after they jumped out of an armoured vehicle at the Bishopsgate offices of the Royal Bank of Scotland during the demonstrations in London’s Square Mile on 1 April last year. They were charged with impersonating police but the case was dropped after four hearings after the CPS said it had received new information and no longer believed there was a realistic chance of a conviction.”

I accept that it is easy to indulge in a bit of ‘Police bashing’ – and sometimes, as the G20 police behaviour demonstrates, they deserve it – but this action on the part of the police was doomed to failure right from the start and just plain daft. I suspect a jury would have acquitted had it gone the full distance…. the CPS certainly thought so.

Guido Fawkes notes: Andy Murray Cursed (Again) Loses Open

“Back in July last year Andy Murray was cursed by Jonah Brown.  Earlier this week when Gordon wished Murray well against Federer many co-conspirators winced and commented that this was the kiss of death again.”

Another interesting week ahead for law news… I am planning to do some televised short voxpop interviews with members of the public about legal news stories when I return to London.  these will supplement the podcasts which I am already doing and, hopefully, be of interest in terms of seeing how mebers of the public regard our laws and the legal issues of our times.  We shall see how it goes!  (I shall, do not fear, be behind the camera)

Have a good week

Best as always


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The BBC reports: Tony Blair has said the Iraq war made the world a safer place and he has “no regrets” about removing Saddam Hussein.

The newspapers will be full of it – but after six hours watching it today, admittedly, while doing other things in parts,  Je suis fatigue. On the way out of the Chilcot Inquiry room Blair was heckled by 2 members of the audience.  One called him a liar and the other called him a murderer.   I make no comment on either of these accusations – but will say this, that it would not have harmed his case at all to have shown greater concern about the death toll, military and civilian.

Blair ran rings around the Chilcot Inquiry today. There were many instances today when the Inquisitioners failed to ask probing questions – some will say, and I have sympathy for this, far too many occasions. Blair gave a very good presentation, so good at times that I wondered if he was giving a presentation to a group of investors at a hedge fund meeting.While Blair was articulate, confident and assertive, I suspect that Gordon Brown, when he appears, will not be quite so smooth.

There were thousands of tweets during the day on Twitter #iraqinquiry #blair – this was one that amused me.

I may have to go back to getting my news in print or from the radio. I just  can’t take any more hyperventilating BBC reporters.

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“Wikileaks has probably produced more scoops in its short life than the Washington Post has in the past 30 years ”
—  The National, November 19. 2009

Wikileaks needs financial help.

“The Sunshine Press (WikiLeaks) is an non-profit organization funded by human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public. Through your support we have exposed significant injustice around the world—successfully fighting off over 100 legal attacks in the process. Although our work produces reforms daily and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the 2008 Economist Freedom of Expression Award as well as the 2009 Amnesty International New Media Award, these accolades do not pay the bills. Nor can we accept government or corporate funding and maintain our absolute integrity. It is your strong support alone that preserves our continued independence and strength.”

Can you help?  If so – click here

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Friday’s Rive Gauche edition  has come around quite quickly after an extraordinary week for law news.   Today, Tony Blair  appears before the Iraq Inquiry.  He will, naturally, be thoroughly prepared.  it is unlikely the questioning will trouble him over much and, after his appearance with Fern Britton, where he said that WMD was not necessary for the war and he would have found other arguments to justify the war, we are unlikely to get anything sensational.

The Guardian reported at the time: “If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you still have gone on?” Blair was asked. He replied: “I would still have thought it right to remove him [Saddam Hussein]”.

Significantly, Blair added: “I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat.” He continued: “I can’t really think we’d be better with him and his two sons in charge, but it’s incredibly difficult. That’s why I sympathise with the people who were against it [the war] for perfectly good reasons and are against it now, but for me, in the end I had to take the decision.”

In a rather bizarre twist, Sir Martin Gilbert, a panellist on the Chilcot The Government’s Got Talent show, has been praising the prime minister Gordon Brown for his hard work.  The timing isn’t great, given Brown’s imminent appearance before the Iraq Inquiry – but this is Britain, so why should we be surprised?

The Times has the story. It is perfectly reasonable for Gilbert to make statements about prime ministers and anti-semitism in Britain  – but I would thought it would have been more sensible to wait until after the Inquiry?

So that will be a “YES” vote from Gilbert for McDoom then?

UN in secret peace talks with Taliban

The Guardian reports….“Taliban commanders held secret exploratory talks with a United Nations special envoy this month to discuss peace terms, it emerged tonight.Regional commanders on the Taliban’s leadership council, the Quetta Shura, sought a meeting with the UN special representative in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, and it took place in Dubai on 8 January. “They requested a meeting to talk about talks. They want protection, to be able to come out in public. They don’t want to vanish into places like Bagram,” the Reuters news agency quoted a UN official as saying, referring to the Bagram detention centre at a US military base outside Kabul.”

London is hosting a conference on Afghanistan and while it seems perfectly sensible to me to try to find a diplomatic solution to a nine year old war, many on BBC’s Question Time last night were none too impressed about the government giving money to the Taliban to get them to stop fighting.

President Karzai had talks with David Cameron the other day….

Scientists have discovered a sub-species of Homo Plodiens in Scotland. The BBC reported the other morning… An Ayrshire businessman says he has been fined by the police for blowing his nose while driving. Michael Mancini, from Prestwick, said he was sitting in stationary traffic with the handbrake on when he used a tissue to clean his nose. He claimed he was waved over by four police officers and given a fixed penalty for not being in proper control of his car.”

And finally….

If you haven’t already spotted this and you want a bit of light entertainment with your coffee… then get on to Twitter and watch the feed from @eyespymp

Basically… it tweets about sightings of MPs and what they are doing… Hat Tip to Guido Fawkes…who states “Guido hears that some MPs are up in arms about invasion of their privacy and that hacks are chortling away.”

Here are but a few examples of recent @eyespymp tweets…

“Vaizey spotted with a short homicidal looking chap at St. Stephens”

“Theresa May with horrific faux crocodile skin bright green handbag. Error.”

“Charles Clarke at Peter Watt’s book launch. The book slams Brown – Clarke here like a greyhound”

“Harman marching back and forth across central lobby for the benefit of a TV camera”

“Gerald Kaufman hobbling along cloisters. Thought he’d died ages ago?”

Have a good Friday.  I shall watch a bit of Chalcot and then I’m orf to London to do ‘stuff’ to organise my imminent return to the capital.

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Law Review: The judges lay down the law…

Judges throw out measures to freeze assets of terror suspects

The Supreme Court delivered yet another defeat for the government in their latest ruling.  The Times has the full story but this list from The Times article  is a useful reminder:.

Judicial defeats for terror laws

2004: House of Lords rules that the indefinite detention without trial of foreign terror suspects at Belmarsh jail is unlawful. 2007: Law lords rule that the most restrictive aspect of the control order regime — the 18-hour curfew — is a breach of human rights. 2008: Five men cleared by the Appeal Court of offences under Section 57 of the Terrorism Act; judges say that it is not illegal to possess extremist material unless it is used to inspire terrorism. 2008: Court of Appeal blocks the deportation to Jordan of extremist cleric Abu Qatada; he is later released on bail then re-arrested on the basis of intelligence that he was about to flee the country. 2008: Appeal Court blocks attempt to increase four-and-a-half year jail term for convicted terrorist Sohail Qureshi. 2009: Government forced to rescind some control orders after House of Lords ruled that suspects had to be told what some of the secret evidence against them said. 2010: Supreme Court declares that terrorist asset-freezing orders, introduced by the Treasury when Gordon Brown was Chancellor, are unlawful.

‘Criminal barristers feel that they have an economic gun to their heads’

Paul Mendelle, QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association: “We are pragmatic and accept the need for cuts. But that does not have to mean these savage and unprincipled cuts to fees that have already seen their value eroded by a decade of inflation.”

The Times reports: “As chairman of the 3,600-strong Criminal Bar Association (CBA) he is organising roadshows on the latest proposals on criminal legal aid. This battle is far from won. Two sets of options are on the table: one from the Legal Services Commission (LSC) on high-cost trials and the other from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) on defence fees generally. Both mean big cuts. The MoJ paper proposes either a one-off cut of 18 per cent for all hearings or a smaller 13.5 per cent decrease over three years — but with strings attached.”

To some extent, compared with other more militant sectors, the legal profession is a soft target for a government intent on cutting. Against a background of a national need to cut back on public expenditure, lawyers are going to have to take a share of the pain and the government will judge the balance finely to ensure expenditure is pitched at a level that the system can continue without mass exodus from lawyers. Lawyers can, of course, exert a fair bit of pressure – the system simply cannot work without them, but will they wish to stir the searing heat of national publicity from the tabloids – as surely they will – by being ‘too assertive’ on the fees issue in the short term. It may be a waiting game or a long game’?

Interestingly, over at the Ministry of Justice: New pilot to increase sustainability and efficiency of law centres

The Sketch: Legality is what the best lawyer says it is

I thought the opening to Simon Carr’s Sketch in the Independent was excellent…

I’ve consulted enough QCs in my litigious life to know how to find out how good your case is. You brief them with your opponent’s case as if it were your own. The advice comes back very unfavourably to your own interest. When you explain the situation, the QC then comes to “the better view” and he gets the business.

And if you want a wonderfully ethereal view of the legality of the war from Anthony Scrivener QC read this

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Lawcast164: The legal basis for the Iraq War and Lord Goldsmith’s opinion with Carl Gardner

Today I am talking to Carl Gardner, a former government lawyer in Tony Blair’s administration and author of the Head of Legal blog, about the legality of the War in Iraq.

The legal analysis turns on United Nations Special Resolution 1441.  Yesterday Sir Michael Wood, Legal Adviser to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office,  was quite specific in his view that war would be unlawful without a second resolution.   The Foreign secretary, Jack Straw, rejected Sir Michael’s advice.  Elizabeth Wilmshurst, a deputy legal adviser at the FCO, was of the same view as Sir Michael Wood and, indeed resigned, so strong was her conviction that the war was unlawful.

Philippe Sands QC of Matrix Chambers and Professor of International Law at University College London has long been of the view that the war in Iraq was illegal and published a book to that effect some time ago.  There are few supporters of the revivalist theory put forward by Lord Goldsmith at the Iraq Inquiry hearing today – but Carl Gardner is one lawyer who does. The podcast is  a discussion between us rather than a traditional interview style podcast.

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version

Read Carl Gardner’s blogpost on this issue

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