19th March 2021
‘Toulouse’s suggestion was not what Audrey wanted to hear.’
– Moulin Rouge
Sometimes – just sometimes – in the world of law and policy there are moments when welcome things do happen.
Back in August 2020 this blog covered the government’s announcement of an ‘independent panel to look at judicial review’.
It did not seem a promising move: just an attempt by the government to find cover for an assault on judicial review by means of a hand-picked commission.
It is sometimes strange how things turn out.
The commission has now reported – and just a skim of the report shows that the government did not get the report it was hoping for.
In large part, the report appears to be an affirmation of the current position of judicial review – with minor changes that it is hard to feel strongly about.
(A close read of the report may dislodge this happy impression – but that is this blog’s preliminary view.)
The concluding observations of the report could have even be a post on this very blog:
In receipt of the report, the Ministry of Justice decided that it would try harder to find people to tell them what they wanted to hear.
We want to keep this conversation going.— Ministry of Justice (@MoJGovUK) March 18, 2021
That’s why we’re launching a public consultation to explore further measures informed by the panel’s analysis.
Find out more and have your say: https://t.co/aAQcwtw1cH
‘We want to keep this conversation going.’
We can bet they do.
Like a frustrated news show producer who cannot find any talking-head expert to say the desired things, the Ministry of Justice is now resorting to a Vox Pox.
At bottom, the problem here is a mismatch, a dislocation – such as those recently discussed on this blog.
The discrepancy is between the heady rhetoric of ‘activist judges’ – a rhetoric that has a life of its own – and the mundane reality of what actually happens in courts.
The commission, to their credit, looked hard and reported on what they saw.
Yet those Ministry of Justice, to their discredit, want to keep on until they are told what they want to hear.
Perhaps the Ministry of Justice will get what they want – and then move to limit judicial review.
One can never be optimistic about law and policy for very long, and the illiberals and authoritarians are relentless.
But this report is a welcome break from the push towards populist authoritarianism in our political and legal affairs.
For a more detailed account of the just-published report, see Paul Daly’s blogpost here.
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