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Archive for April 7th, 2010

Charon QC, my brother – we share the same Father and little else –  has invited me for the duration of  the election campaign (#GE10) to comment on events from the perspective of a Tory.

By way of background I must disclose that I too have spent a life in the law;  the  rather more refined world of academe.   It matters not, for regular readers of my brothers blog will know that while he pays lip service to the law with his little ‘vignettes’ which he is pleased to call ‘Law Reviews’ – he does not over exert his mind on legal matters in those lucid periods between visits to his vintner.  Be that as it may…  for many years we, by which I mean the people we ‘know’,  have been surprised by Charon QC’s Damascene conversion to the left many years ago and until he started ‘blawging’ it was not a matter of great concern to ‘us’ in Notting Hill and the Shires. It was our dark family secret.

I am, however,  grateful to him  for being afforded the opportunity to take a different line, by which I mean approach… not something one would take at ‘modern middle class dinner parties’. I would have preferred my smoking hat to be of a blue hue, but one cannot have everything in life  and my hatter offered only purple as an alternative…which is just a bit too ‘Non-UKIP’ for me… if you forgive the pun which CCHQ gave me earlier today as a rather neat little ‘sound byte’ should I happen to find myself on Newsnight being interviewed as one of the ‘Great Ignored’.

From the Playing fields of Eton to the playing fields of Parliament

Much has been made of David Cameron’s patrician background (In fact Gideon Osborne may probably lay better claim to a  place in the nobility, but give it time and I am sure great honours will follow for David) and his schooling at Eton. I went to a rather more sophisticated public school modelled on a bit of rum, sodomy and the lash as Churchill once described the Navy – although only rum was actually ‘out of bounds’ at my old school in my day.

It may interest you to know – although those on the left will find this ironic – that Eton was founded by Henry VI originally for the children of the poor as a charity school to provide free education to seventy poor boys who would then go on to King’s College, Cambridge, which he also founded in 1441.  As the school grew, more students were allowed to attend provided that they paid their own fees and lived in the town, outside the college’s original buildings. These students became known as Oppidans, from the Latin word oppidum, meaning town.

Today, of course, Dave lives in Notting Hill – but, to his credit, he shares this wonderful part of London with investment bankers and tourists;  the original inhabitants having long de-camped to Hoxton or banished to the Wormwood Scrubs side of the  Notting Hill area…and, indeed, some of them are actually in Wormwood Scrubs with, they say, some MPs and insider dealers soon to join them.

I digress. Parliament is soon to be prorogued… such a wonderful word... a time when the country runs better than at any other time. MPs and ministers will be deprived of their offices, their blackberries and even their official websites.  Some of them have been clever enough to come up with the device on Twitter ‘Buggins4MP’... others like @WilliamJHague..who had to use the ‘J’ because he wasn’t quite savvy enough to set up a twitter account before other ‘William Hagues’,  so they can communicate with their subjects. It has to be said that my favourite Tory, apart from Ken Clarke, was rather busy attending to Lord Ashcroft’s repatriation to the United Kingdom as a fully fledged and domiciled member of the House of Lords.

For the next four weeks we will be given the opportunity to hear educated men and women slagging each other off… a sort of Rah Boo Sucks… in the case of my own favoured party… and given dire warnings by Gavin Esler on Newsnight that they must sit quietly with their hands behind their backs like visitors to a lap dancing club – lest we have a repeat of the wonderfully disgraceful episode on Newsnight the other evening  covered well by Guido Fawkes on his post Clash of the Pie-Tans.

For those of you new to ELECTION FEVER, may I suggest that you make it your duty to consult Iain Dale, Conservative Home and Tory Bear… for therein lies a lot of what you need to keep up to speed on the events of our Tory future. Of course, The Sun, if you can tear yourself away from the coverage of football and tits, has a most amusing political columnist called Tony Newton Dunn, Kelvin Mackenzie and of course probably the most important political leader writer in the country… in terms of ‘REACH’. .. I am talking KAVANAGH.

A little taste of the genre… first, from Trevor Kavanagh…When it’s no fun being well hung

And this wonderful statement from Kelvin “Gotcha” (Remember the Falklands war) Mackenzie…

@Frasernels “One more term of Brown and we’ll be twinned with North Korea” – Kelvin MacKenzie at tonight’s Spectator debate. Brilliant line. While you are it… I suppose you may find The Spectator useful as well.

Well… on that note… if you want a future fair for us and not Gordon Brown… It’s TIME FOR CHANGE.  I shall return on the morrow.

OUR LEADER…In nomine Patris et fillii et Spiritus Sancti

And… you MUST keep up to speed with GuyNEWS… essential viewing 🙂

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Hat Tip to @OldHolborn for the original pic link

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With thank to @infobunny for the link to this grotesque magazine cover… which, of course, I just had to ‘edit’ a bit.

Only Day 2 of the election campaign…. ! Gawd help us…

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Superinjunctions inquiry to start work next month

Guardian: Committee to mount unprecedented investigation into controversial superinjunctions which restrict press freedom

“Superinjunctions are to be examined by a powerful committee of judges and lawyers, it was announced today, after months of speculation about the impact of the legal restrictions on press freedom.

The committee, which begins meeting next month, represents an unprecedented investigation of the controversial measures, which force journalists to keep both information and the existence of an injunction secret.

Superinjunctions have been blamed for silencing the press partly because of the cost of attempting to have them overturned. There is currently no information about the extent to which they have been used against the media, although a series of high-profile cases, including the Guardian’s attempt to report about the dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast involving the oil trading company Trafigura, led to concern about their use.”

Amusingly, there appears to be widespread ignorance of superinjunctions and their use.  Even Mr Justice Eady, leading libel judge, recently overturned by the Court of Appeal in BCA v Dr Singh,  said he was unaware of them but did admit to issuing them… possibly.How could one not know if one has issued a supe injunction? Bizarre… see below. I am very happy to be advised by practitioners who have experience of applying for superinjunctions on this narrow point.

The Guardian reports: “I had never heard the term ‘super injunction’ until it was mentioned in parliament,” Eady said, speaking at City University. “I was not conscious I had ever granted one, but I might have.”

Without wishing to appear too simple minded – there is probably a very good reason superinjunctions are not well known – that is the purpose of a superinjunction, so that no-one knows that an injunction has even been granted.  Record are not, apparently, kept. There is an element of a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party about all this and it is definitely time to get deep analysis and discussion into the reform process.

Thankfully, while Tom Watson blocks libel reform on the grounds that Parliament needs more time (Infra), the Court of Appeal has stepped in to bring a degree of sanity into libel proceedings in BCA v Dr Singh.  Having the use of super injunctions examined by people who actually know what they are talking about – even better, with no vested interest in them – can only be a good thing.

Jack of Kent, the well known law blogger, has a good post on libel reform and why Tom Watson is wrong. I don’t actually think that Tom Watson was wrong to as for more time.  It is important to get legislation right – but reform must come, and I think it is on the way.  Freedom of a responsible press is absolutely vital for democracy and objective and reasoned criticism of corporate and other public activity is absolutely vital to the health of our intellectual capital.

Crucifix ban nurse Shirley Chaplin loses NHS discrimination case

The Times reports: “A Christian nurse who refused to remove a crucifix at work has lost her claim for discrimination after an employment tribunal panel ruled that she should have reached a compromise with her hospital employers. Shirley Chaplin, 54, suggested that her religious beliefs would be “violated” if she took off the necklace because she felt that she was being asked to hide her faith. She had the support of a number of bishops who claim that Christians are being persecuted in an increasingly secular society. The Archbishop of Canterbury has also criticised a “wooden-headed bureaucratic silliness” that prevents people from wearing religious symbols at work. John Hollow, the tribunal chairman, ruled that the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital had acted reasonably in trying to reach a compromise. It had argued that the objection to the crucifix, which Mrs Chaplin, from Kenn, near Exeter, had worn for 30 years, was based on health and safety concerns about patients grabbing the necklace, not religion.”

For my part, this ruling is a step forward in common sense and good application of law. Where a religious symbol or form of dress  interferes with the ability of the wearer to do a job safely or goes counter to the reasonable and lawful contractual requirements of an employer, is it so unreasonable to ban the use of such symbols? I can’t, personally, see much harm in  a person being permitted to broadcast their faith in situations where safety is not compromised – or at work, generally, but that is a matter, in a work situation, between employer and employee contractually. We saw recently how a pharmacist was able  to plead that fulfilling prescriptions for contraception offended religious beliefs. Such action impacts on the public who are entitled to be provided with prescriptions and it should not be for an individual, no matter what their beliefs, to deny such right. These individuals should seek other employment where their religious beliefs do not impact on the public.   If an employer has a ‘uniform code’, is it so unreasonable to require compliance with that code to ensure corporate branding consistency?  Employees are not, after all, compelled to work for a particular employer. On the other side of the coin, I agree fully with those who found Chris Grayling’s remarks that B&B owners should be able to refuse entry to gays offensive.  If a B&B owner opens his or her house to the public – they must comply with the law and not discriminate on ground of sexual orientation.

Controversial elements of the Digital Economy Bill will face further scrutiny even if the bill is passed later, Commons Leader Harriet Harman has said.

BBC: Part of the bill, which refers to how copyright holders can block access to websites hosting pirated content, will be subject to further consultation. Several MPs called for the whole bill to be delayed until after the election.

The Ministry of Justice and Legal Services Commission have today outlined new steps that aim to rebalance the legal aid budget, reduce costs and increase value for money for legal aid.

The reforms are outlined within the government’s response to the consultations on the advocates graduated fees scheme and very high cost cases (VHCCs) and are designed to sustain the legal aid budget, ensure that we focus criminal legal aid spending effectively and support other measures introduced to address wider issues on controlling public finances. The reforms are intended to make better use of the criminal legal aid budget and include changes that rationalise payment structures. The government has decided not to take the option of a one-off cut of 17.9% to advocates graduated fees. Instead the reforms include the alternative option consulted on, of a staged reduction over three years of 4.5% each year (a total reduction of 13.5%) in advocates graduated fees, coupled with extending AGFS to cases due to last up to 60 days. The funding order to make these changes is being laid before Parliament today. The first of the staged reductions will come into effect on 27 April 2010, and the extension to 60-day cases on 14 July 2010.

Ministry of Justice

Scramble to save Bills at end of parliament.

The Independent: Moves to stage a referendum on scrapping the first-past-the-post electoral system have been abandoned as the parties wrangle over legislation to be rushed into law ahead of the general election. The Government has also dropped proposals to phase out the right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords. With Parliament due to be dissolved next Monday, the plans fell victim to the squeeze on Commons time

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