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How our rulers were made to listen to the Listeners’ Law

By the time I finish concocting this post David Carr will probably have posted on the subject already, because it’s right up his alley, if he’ll pardon the expression. No, nothing from him yet and this posting is now done, so here goes. (UPDATE: something from David after all – see above – and HE got the Instapundit link. It’s a tough blogosphere.)

Basically, what it was was that the BBC, in the form of the Today Programme, decided to do a stunt stroke exercise in participatory democracy, and they arranged that listeners could vote for whatever law they wanted to vote for, and the winning law would then be presented to Parliament by a pre-appointed MP who, believing as he does in democracy and all that, was happy to commit himself to whatever law got the most vox from the populus.

The idea was that a law would duly be voted for about saving an Endangered Species or banning a Officially Disapproved-of food or pleasure or past-time. That would-be law would actually be presented to Parliament. It would not be enacted. But another little gob of nannyism would duly have been proclaimed as desirable.

However, the plan went wrong. The particular bit of the populus that got most organised and did the most voting was the bit that thinks that Tony Martin was right to shoot at those thieving bastards who attacked him in his rural farm, and that if one was killed and the other wounded, that should have been their problem for being thieving bastards, and not Tony Martin’s for defending himself and his property. So a new law was crafted along the lines of people being allowed to use any means they like to defend their property. It got the most votes. So now, the Independent reports, the MP who promised to present this to Parliament is going to have to do just that. He is not a happy MP:

Mr Pound’s reaction was provoked by the news that the winner of Today’s “Listeners’ Law” poll was a plan to allow homeowners “to use any means to defend their home from intruders” – a prospect that could see householders free to kill burglars, without question.

“The people have spoken,” the Labour MP replied to the programme, “… the bastards.”

Having recovered his composure, Mr Pound told The Independent: “We are going to have to re-evaluate the listenership of Radio 4. I would have expected this result if there had been a poll in The Sun. Do we really want a law that says you can slaughter anyone who climbs in your window?”

Well, it would seem that quite a lot of people do. And you know what? If there was such a law, there’d be a lot fewer burglars a-burgling.

Personally, I’m with Mr Pound in thinking that “reasonable force” ought to be sufficient. However, unlikeMr Pound, and many others, I think that the force which Tony Martin used against his attackers was itself quite reasonable, and that in general, lethal force is often a very reasonable way for householders to fight off burglars, and in the process to uphold the law (one of the laws being that you mustn’t burgle). After all, for many householders in many circumstances, the only choices available are: (a) householder shoots at intruders to kill, and therefore quite often does kill, or: (b) householder is helpless, and is duly robbed, or worse. What Official Opinion wants us all to accept is that there is a third alternative which is superior to both (a) and (b), which is: (c) the householder reports the crime, and the criminals are speedily apprehended by the Police and punished appropriately by the courts. But why is (c) so very much better than (a)? And what if (c) just about never happens, either because the burglars aren’t caught or because if they are caught they aren’t sufficiently punished?

Simon Jenkins isn’t my favourite columnist. (See here for evidence of just how fatuously wrong this man is capable of being.) But after starting off his latest column for Timesonline by denouncing the BBC for getting above itself by actually proposing legislation (and thereby setting itself up in competition with Parliament), and for failing to guide public opinion into a more proper direction, he ends up admitting that this little exercise has actually worked out rather well. It gave lots of people a chance to say that they don’t feel safe in their own homes and would like the right to defend their homes themselves, and they took it. By their insubordinate refusal to accept their duly allotted place in the grand scheme of things, the place allotted to them by people like Simon Jenkins, an important slice of public opinion got members of the pompous git classes to actually think about that proposition for a change. Jenkins’ column started out under the heading “How the BBC made democracy just a show”, but ended up saying this:

Which brings me full circle. There is virtue in the listeners’ law after all. I have debated it for an entire column. I am sure that the BBC would declare this as no more than their original intention. A listeners’ law is better than no law at all. Where indeed would we be without the BBC?

Under the circumstances, that’s quite an admission.

6 comments to How our rulers were made to listen to the Listeners’ Law

  • Brian Micklethwait

    Instapundit linked to David’s piece above, not this, so all comments there.


  • Brian Micklethwait

    By the way, the Independent misquoted Pound. He was himself quoting when he said “The people have spoken – the bastards”. See the comment on the posting above, which clarifies this. The Guardian got it right.

  • Julian Morrison

    The problem with “reasonable force” is that it leaves you naked before a legal system with an unreasonable definition of “reasonable”. The “any means” approach would work better, because in practise, few people would just casually shoot – people aren’t as a rule murderous. (Witness the convolutions the army goes through to try to make them such.)

  • I agree that few people would just casually shoot, but someobody would occasionally, and what do you do then? I don’t think that you should have the right to shoot someone who has trespassed on your property and is (perhaps) stealing oranges from a tree in your back yard – that is in my mind excessive. On the other hand, if someone has broken into your home and is walking around inside, then really I think any level of force in reponse is fine because it is reasonable to assume that you and your family are in physical danger.. I think there are some shades of grey here, and we have to live with this.

    And alas Brian, David just has more charisma than the rest of us.

  • Shtetl G

    To my compatriots across the pond, you have my sympathies. Everyone should have the right to protect their family, their property and themselves.

    The problem as I understand it is that the courts in England have a strict definition of what is “reasonable.” When you are confronted at 2 AM in your own home, you don’t have time to determine what is apropriate force, especailly if your family is at risk. In a stressful life threatening situation, shoot first and ask questions later. You don’t have time to calculate the weight of thief in relationship to your own weight and calculate the reasonable amount of force necessary to detain him. IMHO, a would be thief has forfeited any rights by breaking the law and invading your property.

    Hmmm. I feel like going to range the now. Good luck and keep up the good fight.

  • R. G> Newbury

    Unfortunately, the self-selected elites of the New Labour Party will not be listening to what is being said by the electorate.
    And even if the law were passed, there are lots of judges who would consider it a law that they could not allow to be applied.
    I do not have the citation, but a judge has stated ‘that it is unclear whether the right to self-defence continues to exist in English law” (or words to that effect).

    What *really* needs to happen is for 10 or 20 or 30 judges to wake up in a cold sweat to sound of breaking glass *in their house* at 2 in the morning…..even better if there were a burglary going on.. because I doubt that anything less than a ‘Tony Martin moment’ will get through the level of religious fervour involved….

    (And since I live in Ontario, I won’t be throwing any stones at Lord Wolff’s windows, even if I knew where he lived..At least here, the Crowns are smart enough to leave well enough alone…)

    Apochryphal but illuminating storey: Man calls 911… “There are 3 armed guys tkaing stuff out of my garage. I have my rifle. How soon can you be here?”
    “Don’t do anything sir… We’ll have an officer there in 30 minutes…”
    “Oh, well then, hang on…”
    Sound of telephone handset being set down.
    Silence for a while then 3 separate gunshots.
    Sound of footsteps approaching…
    “No hurry now, take your time….”

    Catchline: The police are there in TEN minutes….

    True story? Unknowable.
    Illuminating about police attitudes? Priceless!