We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Public Prosecutions protestations

We noted here earlier the controversial proposed appointment of a new Director of Public Prosecutions. Today’s Telegraph reports that Britain’s Conservative Opposition are continuing to making an issue of this:

The appointment of one of Cherie Blair’s “cronies” as the new Director of Public Prosecutions is a “matter of deepest concern” because of his work on terrorist cases, Michael Howard, the shadow chancellor, said yesterday.

Mr Howard suggested that Ken Macdonald was not fit to serve as the country’s top prosecutor because of his views on the motives of those charged with terrorism.

Mr Howard, a QC, singled out Mr Macdonald’s website at Matrix Chambers, where Mrs Blair works as a public law barrister, and his use of the phrase “political violence”.

A website? Yes, this one.

The website detailing Mr Macdonald’s work as a criminal lawyer says: “He is very well known for his work in cases where serious allegations of political violence are made against Irish republicans, Sikhs, Palestinians and Islamists. He is especially interested in fair trial issues arising out of recent anti-terrorist legislation in Britain and abroad.”

Although Mr Howard stopped short of suggesting that Mr Macdonald was sympathetic to the cause of terrorist groups, he said the concept of “political violence” was not recognised under English law.

This is an argument that will presumably divide White Rose readers along political lines. But it is very White-Rose-relevant, as I’ve been saying of a number of stories here.

Howard admits that if Macdonald hadn’t had that Blair connection he wouldn’t be making so much fuss. Fair enough. Neither would I. As it is, says Howard, the appointment should be closely scrutinised. Here’s what is probably Howard’s most telling punch:

“If you engage in that kind of scrutiny, you discover that this is a man who has no experience of prosecution at all. He’s never prosecuted a single significant case in his career.

If you want to get stuck into Michael Howard, the Telegraph also supplies the link to his website.

“The selection process was completely transparent and accountable”

Who makes the crucial decision about whether to prosecute in the first place? And who picks the person who does this? And who have they picked?

From today’s Independent:

The government was accused of “rampant cronyism” last night after a barrister from Cherie Blair’s law firm was named as the head of the Crown Prosecution Service.

Ken Macdonald, a founding member of Matrix Chambers, where the Prime Minister’s wife practises under her maiden name Cherie Booth, will become Director of Public Prosecutions in the autumn.

Doesn’t sound good, put like that, does it?

A spokeswoman for the CPS said Mr Macdonald had been appointed to the £145,000-a-year post by a panel of impartial senior civil servants and legal figures. She said: “The selection process was completely transparent and accountable. It was an open competition. The fact he comes from a distinguished chambers signals that he is a leading barrister, but the chambers he comes from had no other bearing on the appointment.”

I suppose that could be true.

Liberty appoints new Director

From Liberty’s press release:

Shami Chakrabarti is to be the new Director of Liberty. She succeeds John Wadham who has been appointed Deputy Chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Shami Chakrabarti joined Liberty in 2001 as the group’s ‘In-House Counsel’ and is now recognised as one of the UK’s leading authorities on anti-terror laws. She says that the measures adopted by the Government in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks have made her “ashamed to be a lawyer.”

Walking in Orwell’s footsteps

Simon Davies of Privacy International organised an event this evening here in London in order to honour George Orwell and hoist a drink or three to one of England’s greatest writers on the occasion of his birthday.

Now I know a lot of you have read Orwell’s sundry works… 1984… Animal Farm… etc… but how many of you have drunk a ‘Black and Tan’ at Orwell’s favorite pub, the Newman Arms on 23 Rathbone Street…

…followed by walk to the Elysee Restaurant, around the corner at 13 Percy Street, which was one of Orwell’s favorite eating places? The default dish here has to be Moussaka, as Orwell ate it on nearly every occasion that he visited this place.

A splendid evening was had by Gabriel Syme and myself (the wicked and iniquitous Johnathan Pearce was a no-show) amidst an impressive collection of privacy and civil liberties activists from across a .. ahem… wide range of the political spectrum.

Cross-posted from Samizdata.net