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Tag Archives: UK Parliament

Can Boris Johnson defy a commons vote of no confidence?

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For those British MPs wanting to stop a no-deal Brexit, the options are running out. Among  avenues apparently blocked, according to some, is a motion of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s government. The prime minister’s senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, has declared it is too late for such a motion to halt Brexit on 31 October. Even if he loses a motion of no confidence, Johnson can, according to Cummings, refuse to make way for a new Prime Minister and stay on until he decides to have a General Election – probably during or after Brexit on 31 October.

Meanwhile, the bad news for the ant-Brexit proponents of the “government of national unity” is that, even if Johnson follows correct procedure and quits, it is Jeremy Corbyn who should most likely be invited to set up a new government, not a cross-party coalition. There is no parliamentary mechanism for such a coalition to take power unless it is led by Labour.
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Libel juries: How Tim Yeo and Warby J buried the Seven Bishops

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It is ironic – and perhaps a little shocking – that an early high-profile beneficiary of Britain’s abolition of the right for juries to try libel cases should be a Member of Parliament – one who will doubtless have supported the Defamation Act 2013 that removed the long-standing right. So, step forward Tim Yeo, who will not (thanks to the new law and a sympathetic judge) have 12 jurors facing him in court who need to be persuaded that he did not show willingness “to abuse his position in Parliament to further his own financial and business interests in preference to the public interest“.*

Yeo succeeded in challenging Times Newspapers’ attempt to have a jury empanelled – but might be mortified that Mr Justice Warby in Tim Yeo MP v Times Newspapers decided the case could do without a jury because Yeo is just not an important enough figure to warrant one. Some public figures (government ministers or judges, perhaps, rather than footballers or celebs) might have to face a libel trial jury, but the moderately high and not-so-mighty-now Mr Yeo doesn’t quite cut the mustard.

More significantly, Warby’s decision about a jury has ditched centuries of legal and constitutional  principle, denying any public interest right for defamation cases involving senior public servants to be tried by those representatives of the public who constitute juries. But some background is needed.

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Sir George Young, Bt, and the original cash for honours scandal

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So what exactly is a baronet? We need to know to understand, in these class-sensitive times, following hard on “plebgate”, whether the appointment of Sir George Young, Bart, as the UK Government’s Chief Whip upsets the delicately crafted social balance of the British Cabinet. Is Sir George a bat’s squeak more posh or a smidgin more plebeian than Hampstead-born, Rugby and Cambridge-educated ex-Army officer and former Lazards banker Andrew Mitchell?

Young is well loved as the gentlemanly bicycling baronet, his copybook slightly blotted by his witty apothegm: “The homeless are what you step over when you come out of the opera” – often quoted out of context, as here. Those were more vulgar, more Thatcherite times. The Conservative party is now, of course, intensely relaxed about the filthy poor.

But back to the baronetcy. Behind it lies a shocking tale of snobbery and social climbing, naked patronage and the original cash for honours scandal.

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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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Theresa May’s immigration rules expel the rule of law

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The UK Government has instituted a remarkable constitutional innovation that redefines the concept of the rule of law. It has declared that the Government can tell judges how to interpret legal rules governing executive actions when those actions are challenged in court.

This is the implication of guidance attached to the new Immigration Rules laid (briefly) before Parliament and coming into force on 9 July 2012.

Home Secretary Theresa May has set out new rules on immigration but, crucially, severely curbed judges’ rights to interpret those rules in the light of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. She has done it on the basis of a misreading – or perhaps, more accurately, a misrepresentation – of case law on the immigration issue.

Since the Immigration Rules are not statutory (they are issued by the Government rather than passing through the full legislative process in Parliament) they can be struck down by courts if not in conformity with the European Convention. Article 8(1) says: “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.” It is blamed by the government for preventing the deportation of undesirables, including criminals or potential terrorists, if they can claim a “family life” in Britain. This has irritated the current and previous Governments for years.

Notoriously, even the fact that a foreign man and his British girlfriend co-own a cat was once adduced to enhance a non-national’s “family life” credentials under Article 8 – at least according to Mrs May. Read the rest of this entry

Criminalisation of squatting will cause problems, not solve them

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The criminalisation of squatting came into force on 1 September 2012. This article was written as the bill was going through Parliament and contrasts the previous legal position with the new law. The Criminal Law Act provisions described below and the civil remedies remain in force in addition to the new law and so householders and intended occupiers may continue to make use of them.

It looks as if the UK Government will soon have its law criminalising squatting on the statute books, overturning a centuries-old legal principle and turning an estimated 20,000 people into criminals overnight.

The measure is hidden deep within the dark cloak of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. Clause 145 on squatting [now enacted as Section 144] is the result of a late amendment to a bill that, as it’s name implies, has nothing to do with squatting. The amendment was added just before the bill headed to the House of Lords with only an hour and a half of Commons debate and only days after the Ministry of Justice published its paper on Options for Dealing with Squatting

Now you won’t read here any sentimental romanticism about the joy or justice of squatting. The trespassing of people’s homes, implying as it does an interference in their property, privacy and peace of mind, deserves no legal protection. That is why in another context those things are deemed breaches of human rights.

Instead, the argument is that Clause 145 is unnecessary, disproportionate and likely to harm, not to help, residents trying to get back into their homes.

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