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Friday, 27 January 2012

The Court of Special Pleading

The ECHR is not an appeal court in the way the Supreme Court is. Appeals procedures in both criminal and civil justice systems ensure that only the most significant and relevant cases, those likely to lead to a change in either the law or judicial process, reach the old Middlesex Guildhall for careful, lengthy and expert consideration. 

But the ECHR is not an appeal court. With a backlog of over 150,000 cases, it is a Court of Special Pleading, grown from an Age of Entitlement. Wherever governments make rationing decisions - rationing Welfare housing, or access to tax-funded medical services, or tax-funded education - there will always be those unhappy with their ration, who want more. While national governments can ignore the whining of self-interest, the ECHR opens its doors to allow them to make a case as to why they should be treated differently to everyone else. Wherever governments design and deliver systems of criminal justice the ECHR opens its door to those who want better treatment than their fellow convicts, who want jury decisions overturned on grounds not forming part of their national law, who want special consideration and personal preferment. It stinks. 

Don't mistake me; I think there is a role for a pan-national court to make recommendations to national governments to change their domestic laws. Scandinavian socialist eugenics, the birth-cradle of Nazism, Toynbee's Utopian Fabianopolis, gave us the compulsory sterilisation of the mentally retarded until the 1970s. However, the court's power should be limited to recommendation. Its decisions cannot be binding on democratic nations making their own legitimate decisions on the rationing of Welfare or the penalty for any particular crime. 

We once had a Court of Special Pleading ourselves; called the Court of Requests it was empowered to make decisions at variance with the Common Law, to challenge the law. It eventually collapsed under the weight of backlog of cases, as everyone sought special pleading. The ECHR may be headed the same way. 

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Sunni Delight

The threat, bluster and economic warfare now being mobilised against Iran by the West is delighting both the Sunni dominated middle east and Wahabbi Saudi Arabia. To get the west to go to war against the most powerful remaining Sh'ia force in the region whilst keeping their own hands clean suits the remaining despots very nicely indeed. And the west, as gullible and myopic as ever, seemingly having learned nothing from Iraq, is heading straight into catastrophe. 

Far better to call in all those favours from Israel and have that belligerent little nation act as the west's proxy; the animus between Israel and Iran is widely understood, the fight would be a fair one and Sunni chauvinism would be blunted by a Sh'ia 'champion' in the arena with their widely-loathed common enemy. We would, of course, keep Israel plentifully supplied with arms (to the benefit of our own industry), albeit discreetly, and guarantee the integrity of Israel's pre-1967 border. But that's all.   

Monday, 23 January 2012

Labour peers disconnected

Labour peers (including Paddy Ashdown) are demonstrating just how disconnected from reality they are in opposing Welfare caps as the government's proposals pass through the Lords. Even if IDS' welfare reforms have missed the opportunity for real and fundamental reform, they are at least dealing with an aspect of welfare that aggravates the majority of voters - benefits claimants living in grand homes at the taxpayers' expense. As the Indie points out, this is just as much an irritation to the 'squeezed middle' as the equally scandalous fat-cat rewards at the other end of the scale. 

The British people have, as a whole, a pretty good idea of fairness. It's fine for Richard Branson and Alan Sugar to be wealthy, but not fine for some unknown thieving muppet to equal their wealth by skimming all the profits from your pension fund. It's understandable that a 20-something soccer player or pop tart behaves stupidly with unaccustomed cash wealth, but inconceivable that a 20-something derivatives trader is entitled to do so. Labour peers should realise they're backing the wrong horse; Cameron's vulnerability is his closeness to the obscene earnings at the top end, not the benefits piss-takers at the bottom. 

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Bon Mots from Meades

Jonathan Meades has a formidable mind. I still relish the throwaway line shattering smug pretention that he voiced on one of his architectural history TV progs "Lutyens is known to have designed eleven houses, thirty-seven of which are in Surrey". 

His piece in the Telegraph urges us not to blame the slum estates of the sixties for the criminal behaviour of the underclass. Not that he likes or approves of the architecture, you understand, but because those who live in Albany refrain from crack dealing in the stairwells whilst those who live in Ernest Bevin House do not. Meades sums it up;
exclusion – initially expressed through truancy and minor delinquency – is wrought by people on themselves, by their irresponsibility and failure to integrate, because their life is an incompatible synthesis of primitivism and envy, of ill-education and consumerist desire
Unfortunately he stops there, hesitant perhaps at wandering too far from architectural history. More, Jonathan, please.