What is “law and policy”?

23rd April 2019

As this blog is described as a “law and policy” blog, and I describe myself as a commentator on “law and policy”, it may be a good idea to explain what this means (at least what it means to me).

There are many excellent legal commentators out there who will explain the “black letter” law with accuracy and insight.

I sometimes do this, though I am not anywhere as good as they are.

There are also brilliant commentators who will show you what practical law is like in action – most notably the Secret Barrister but many others.

I can try to do this, but again I am nowhere as good as many already doing so.

What I try to do is different from either explaining the law or depicting what happens with courts and clients.

I enjoy looking at legal messes.

In other words: complex situations where there is uncertainty as to either the law (and/)or the outcomes of a legally related process.

I have a particular interest where the impact of the mess is on the wider public, and where the unfolding of the mess takes place in a policy and political context.

Policy takes place in a legal framework, and that legal framework in turn is set by policy choices and priorities. There is a reciprocal relationship between law and policy.

And politics, and everyday life, takes place within this joint law and policy framework.

Usually, this works fine.

But sometimes there is a “disturbance in the force” – situations arise where it looks like the settled framework of law and policy cannot cope.

In a word: crises.

This happened in respect of media law and policy at the time of the Leveson; earlier it happened in respect of the relationship of social media and law, and in respect of the severe problems of libel law.

Long-term followers may recall my commentary and involvement in these matters.

Just before Brexit, I was looking at the “contracting state” and exposed the Saudi prisons contract fiasco of the Ministry of Justice. This is a subject I want to get back to writing about.

And then Brexit came along: the most extraordinary legal and policy mess any of us are likely to ever see.

So my working answer to the question posed above is that “law and policy” describes the practical relationship between, on one hand, law and legal processes (including making legislation and deciding cases) and, on the other hand, the wider public interest (including policy making/implementation/failure and political activity).

I find this relationship fascinating, and that is why I blog and tweet about it (often for free!) and I am looking to write more.

**

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Comments are welcome but pre-moderated, and they will not be published if irksome.

7 thoughts on “What is “law and policy”?”

  1. Well, David, you really must be in your element with Brexit then. Never, in my lifetime, has it been so clear that government (and we should differentiate that to mean politicians rather than civil servants) has so little clue what it is doing. Neither of the mainstream parties seem capable of differentiating between the “national interest” and their own narrow “party political” interests. They seem blissfully unaware of the consequences to society and the economy of their actions (or inactions) and highlight the schism that has developped between the public and those elected to serve it.

  2. Thank you David for guiding us through this complex area If a few more of our MPs took an interest in how law and policy intertwine, we might not be in such a mess as we are now.

  3. Adore that exquisite extra “n” in the last mention of “law and policy” (at least in the e-mailed version of the blog) – expert analysis on “lawn and policy” would indeed be a garden of possibility!

  4. Redundant “n” which you wish to edit out
    answer to the question posed above is that “lawn and policy”.
    No need to publish this comment!

  5. Thank you, I enjoy your writing and explanations on your blog, it gives me hope that there are solutions, if only politicians could see, or be willing to see the way forward.

  6. I ‘just’ want to thank you. I’m a complete novice in both areas and lost and bewildered at times by the muddles in between the two. I really value the clarity that you bring.

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