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Tag Archives: David Cameron

University segregation need not be a divisive issue

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UK Prime Minister David Cameron has another bee in his bonnet – sorry: deeply held conviction. This time it is segregation of women from men in talks given by Muslims or in an Islamic context on university premises.

He found guidance issued by Universities UK on this issue (that segregation should only be voluntary and mixed areas be allowed if people want them) to be inadequate given his own passionate belief in human rights especially for Muslim women.

Segregation on grounds of sex is naturally anathema to this product of Eton (where boys all learn together whatever their gender) and the Bullingdon club (girls always welcome in some capacity).

We can’t be sure what Cameron’s exact views are since he has not spoken publicly, but it looks as if he is so opposed to segregation that he rejects UUK’s voluntarist approach and would seem to want to force those attending these talks to sit boy-girl-boy-girl whether they like it or not. Maybe he will draft in some of the police currently suppressing student protests to enforce his emphatic liberal position?

It’s a matter of free speech, according to a Downing Street spokesperson, and Cameron feels very strongly about it. Certainly universities are governed by the 1986 Education (No 2) Act, Section 43(1)  on free speech, which says:

“Every individual and body of persons concerned in the government of any establishment to which this section applies shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the establishment and for visiting speakers.”

This was Tory legislation to curb students’ “anti-Zionist” and “No platform for fascists” movements. Paradoxically it is now protecting fundamentalist Muslims. But it is very unclear what the segregation issue has to do with free speech as such. Is Cameron suggesting that women in general and Muslim women of western leanings will be put off from going to important talks by ultra-orthodox Muslim speakers? Does “free speech” extend to “free listening to speech”? The talks can go ahead without those women (thus protecting the S.43 rights of “visiting speakers”) and one can’t believe that Cameron really thinks those talks are of such vital significance that the women who opt to boycott them will be missing very much.

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Why Ken Clarke is wrong on the veil in court

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Picture the scene. The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has called Ken Clarke in on Sunday morning for an important and urgent job. He is without portfolio but that doesn’t mean is without his uses.

“What ho, prime minister! Not chillaxing today?” asks the jovial former Lord Chancellor.

“No, Ken. There’s important business afoot. We need a little air cover. We want you to dominate the news headlines.”

“I’m the man for the job,” beams Ken, he of the “some rapes are more serious than others” claim.

“Great,” says Cameron. “Now, go out and say something about veils. Any old b– – – will do.”

Ken duly complies. It is not certain why he needs to do this important job. It may be a precursor to justice secretary Chris Grayling coming over all “tough on veils” by announcing a ban on them for witnesses giving evidence in court (though a ban is not really within his immediate powers); or it may be to deflect attention from the embarrassing U-turn on migrant visa bonds.

Whatever it is, Ken rises to the challenge. How did he approach this sensitive subject? By blundering in with his size 10 Hush Puppies. In passing he denigrated the attitude of women who wear veils as archaic and strange: “It’s a most peculiar costume for people to adopt in the 21st century.” Read the rest of this entry

Extinguishing the right to light by prescription

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UK Prime Minister David Cameron has likened his battle against planning regulation to the war against Nazi Germany. Now it looks as if a Blitz-style blackout will be a crucial part of Britain’s bid to build itself out of recession. The government wants to abolish the right to light.

The thinking is that valuable developments are being prevented by the centuries-old “easement” of light, whereby the owners or occupiers of one building should not have light reduced by new buildings or other blockages on neighbouring ground. The Law Commission has been tasked with reviewing the law – preferably to get rid of it.

The case that has set the bees buzzing around government ministers’ bonnets is HKRUK II (CHC) Ltd v Heaney (2010) in which developers built two new storeys to a property in Leeds and a judge issued an injunction requiring them to be removed since they blocked some of the light to a nearby building. Read the rest of this entry

We need a judicial review into who’s killing JR

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Here’s a riddle wrapped up in a paradox: could judges using the power of judicial review strike down David Cameron’s attempts to curb the use of judicial review?

The British Prime Minister has complained at people exercising their right to hold the executive to account. He wants to “reduce the time limit when people can bring cases; charge more for reviews – so people think twice about time-wasting”.

Now let us remind ourselves of the chilling threat issued by Baron Steyn, of Swafield in the County of Norfolk. In R (Jackson) v Attorney General (House of Lords case 2006) he said on the supremacy of Parliament:

The judges created this principle. If that is so, it is not unthinkable that circumstances could arise where the courts may have to qualify a principle established on a different hypothesis of constitutionalism. In exceptional circumstances involving an attempt to abolish judicial review or the ordinary role of the courts, the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords or a new Supreme Court may have to consider whether this is a constitutional fundamental which even a sovereign Parliament acting at the behest of a complaisant House of Commons cannot abolish.”

He is saying that if Parliament sought to abolish judicial review, courts would have to defy Parliament even though Parliament is sovereign. The rationale for his position is that there exists in Britain the rule of law. You know the one: the rule that says the Government is subject to the law, just like everyone else. The one the Government, and particularly the Prime Minister, David Cameron, keeps forgetting.

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Pleb or posh – the UK Cabinet’s class position analysed

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The  Andrew Mitchell row over the abuse allegedly hurled at police by the UK Government’s chief whip, and whether or not he called them plebs, brings the political focus back on to whether Britain is being governed by a bunch of out of touch posh boys. Here is a guide to the essential information to allow you to make up your mind. (Definitions and analysis are given below.) Included is information on the nature of Cabinet members’ work before they became MPs, which speaks to the issue of how out of touch they may or may not be.

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Parliamentary boundary changes: Liberal Democrats fight for the moral low ground

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On the face of it, the Liberal Democrats, in seeking to veto boundary changes in revenge for lost House of Lords democratisation, have deserted their preferred moral high ground for low politics. The legislation to equalise voters in each constituency and reduce Commons constituencies from 650 to 600 was duly passed by Parliament and the Boundary Commission is doing the work to produce the new set-up by the next election in 2015. (Note: since publication we have actually had two elections under the old system – and who knows, could have another shortly …)

Liberal Democrat opposition to the outcome will involve standing against the will of Parliament as expressed in that legislation, countering the crucial independence of the Boundary Commission and, paradoxically, Lib Dem ministers undermining what is in effect their own legislation.

Given their illiberal and undemocratic stance in their opposition to equalisation of constituencies and reduction in parliamentary seats, do they have any strong moral argument to justify it?

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Cameron sacrifices Jeremy Hunt and the British constitution

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The Jeremy Hunt affair in Britain has shown that the problem with being governed by ex-policy wonks and PR men rather than politicians is that they tend not to be imbued with a sense of the great historical struggle for liberty and a Parliament free and independent from the monarchy that has culminated in placing them in the positions of power they enjoy today. As a result they play fast and loose with the British constitution and let those great freedoms drain away for the sake of political expediency.

Take Article 9 of the Bill of Rights of 1689 for example. It says: “That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament.”

What Article 9 emphatically does not say is: “If the prime minister is in a tight spot and needs a bit of breathing space, he can pack his Culture Secretary off down the Road to the Royal Courts of Justice, there to hang him out to dry by having him cross-examined by Queen’s Counsel before one of her majesty’s most learned Lord Justices.”

Any such suggestion would be anathema to Prime Minister David Cameron’s forebears and it took several civil wars and the Glorious Revolution to ensure that, constitutionally, there should never be such a suggestion. Oddly, David Cameron himself  is generally rather opposed to “unaccountable judges” second-guessing the decisions of democratically accountable ministers (as pointed out here). He has made a special exception for Hunt.

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The holy alliance to capture the British constitution

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The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, have joined the holy bandwagon, declaring Britain is a Christian country and, as Grieve put it, those denying the fact are “absurd” and “ignoring both historical and constitutional reality”. The British constitution has once more become the battleground for a religio-political struggle. History is being rewritten to dismiss secularists from the temple of democracy.

Cameron took his lead from Baroness Warsi, who returned from a spiritual sojourn in Rome in 2012 to start her crusade against “militant secularism”. Faith is good, so good that the Queen that same year dedicated her Jubilee to rebranding the Protestant Established Church as an umbrella organisation – with her responsibility in it redesignated as “a duty to protect the freedom of all faiths in the country”.

And Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester, has claimed Magna Carta and the 1689 Bill of Rights as Christian documents – along with other good things such as the abolition of slavery, industrial legislation and “reform of the nursing profession”. Secularists have nothing to do with great beacons of British humanity and liberty, was his implication.

Well, up to a point, he’s not wrong. Christians were indeed instrumental, for example, in campaigning against slavery – just as Christians were deeply involved in the African slave trade.

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Leveson inquiry and privacy law: kiss goodbye to kiss-and-tell

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One assumes that, when the Sun or News of the World reporters were gathering material on the peccadillos of X-Factor contestants, football stars and Formula One bosses, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights was somewhat distant from their minds. This, after all, is the one that says: “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”

So when Lord Justice Leveson during his inquiry into phone-hacking and related matters asked of former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck: “Did anybody or did you give any thought to the Article 8 rights of the women?” meaning those in the Max Mosley affair, the answer was a little slow in coming but predictable: “There was no discussion about that.

Why would there be? After all, why let Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights get in the way of a good story?

But in fact Mr Thurlbeck showed the concept of privacy law was not wholly alien to him: “I would say the ‘kiss and tell’ story is now largely dead as a genre. In the last three years, we’ve taken great note of privacy matters.” There were now two questions asked of a story:  “That was the second question after ‘is it true’: ‘is it intruding into privacy?’”

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UK riot sentences, judicial independence and Cameron’s dog whistle

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The UK riots sentences show what unpredictable times we live in. When first visiting the sentencing issue Alrich’s Weblog suggested the rioters would all be home by Christmas. For the most part this remains literally true, but the argument was that magistrates’ courts were restrained from issuing harsh penalties by statutory guidelines on many of the cases likely to come before them.

This seemed to be the case to begin with. The odd rioter got his day in court and his day in jail then headed off home. The London Evening Standard declared: “Riot police fury at soft sentences” but the story barely lasted a couple of editions. From then on it was all about the fightback, the new powers for police and courts, the draconian prison sentences for nicking bottled water, picking up stuff in the streets, trying to start a riot through Facebook. The gods are athirst and have apparently made it pretty clear to magistrates just how thirsty for blood they are. The tumbrils are rolling.

Now all the talk is of judges overstepping the mark and politicians too – egging them on to tougher and tougher sentencing of rioters. The words of the prime minister, David Cameron, are cited. In Parliament he declared: “When events such as these take place, it is perfectly possible for courts to set some exemplary sentences, to send out a clear message.” Read the rest of this entry

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