28th February 2020
A blog, like Winston Churchill’s puddings, should have a theme.
Otherwise there is the risk that a blog drifts or (worse or better, depending on one’s view) is not updated at all.
This blog will now, I think, have two themes.
The first is a detailed – almost forensic – look at key documents relating to law and policy.
This is because independent blogging (with the ability to freely link to sources, non-irksome comments, and with no word counts) is a natural medium for such exercises.
And I have started towards this by identifying two key Brexit texts which will be examined closely in post to come (to which you can add a third and fourth, the United Kingdom’s Command Paper on the upcoming negotiations and this speech by Michel Barnier).
The second is what I will call (with affectionate mockery of the “Judicial Power Project”) the “Executive Power Project”.
My column at Prospect magazine this month sets out one of my general views on this: that currently there is a period of relative judicial lack-of-activism, and that behind the current “something must be done about the judges” moral panic is nothing more than a turnip-ghost.
The revolt against the judges in the United States and Poland, and the United Kingdom, and elsewhere, is little or nothing to do with actual cases and judgments.
It is instead about removing or discrediting those independent checks and balances which prevent those with executive power from easily getting their way.
As such the attacks on the independent judiciary need to be seen as akin to the attacks on the impartial civil service and and diplomatic service, the free press, public service broadcasting, and those parts of the legislature beyond the executive’s easy grasp.
The one uniting factor in all this is an attempt by those currently with executive power to remove or discredit anything that can counter them.
Another part of this is the invocation of heady snappy legitimising phrases (such as the “Will of the People”, “Taking Back Control”, “Get Brexit Done” and “Restoring Sovereignty”) that are intended to over-ride any opposition or concerns.
Here one is reminded of the words attributed to Madame Roland as she was led to the guillotine, “O Liberté, que de crimes on commet en ton nom!” (O Liberty, how many crimes are committed in thy name!) or Stephen Dedalus’s wry “I fear those big words which make us so unhappy”.
For the authoritarian, phrases and concepts that confer legitimacy (whether leftist, rightist, centrist or anything else) tend not to be the reason for what they do but their excuse and pretext.
And the language of populism suits the authoritarian perfectly: for who can be against the will of the people?
So, rather than commenting on anything and everything (and thereby nothing in particular), this blog will tend to focus on these two themes.
It may not make much (or any) difference but it seems a good thing to do anyway.
Thank you for visiting this law and policy blog.
I will be spending less time on Twitter in 2020 as I want to move back into longer-form writing – in particular examining and commenting on key texts and other developments, and looking at attempts by the executive to take power from elsewhere.
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