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Samizdata quote of the day – bring back the Law Lords

In any case, if those who stubbornly insist the Supreme Court is exactly like the old Appellate Committee are correct, then there can be no objection to moving it back to the House of Lords since it would make no difference whatsoever. It would be simple enough. The Supreme Court gift shop will be the first to go, with its Supreme Court-branded teddy bears and its unsold copies of the laudatory coffee table book about the building’s architecture. Baroness Hale’s leek-themed carpet, a 1970s style fever dream, will be next, revealing the sturdy floors underneath.

Then their lordships can return to the anonymous backrooms of the House of Lords, safe from the temptations of being supreme over Parliament. Middlesex Guildhall, that much-abused building, can be restored to its former glory, if it ever had any, and assist in dealing with London’s rising crime levels. Then the ghosts of the Blairite constitution may finally be exorcised.

Yuan Yi Zhu

23 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – bring back the Law Lords

  • bobby b

    I would have thought that the principle of separation of governmental power – away from one main repository of power into several countervailing centers – would be a libertarian basic premise.

    Seems more like a term of derision to the author.

  • Paul Marks

    bobby b – the function of American judges (State and Federal), in relation to constitutional matters, is to enforce State Constitutions and the Federal Constitution (whether they do or not is another question) – the function of the Blairite Supreme Court is to enforce leftist doctrine.

    They are just about opposites.

    But just getting rid of Blairite institutions, such as the Supreme Court, is not enough – there are also key pieces of far left legislation (Acts of Parliament) that need to be repealed because they hand over power to the institutional (“long march through the institutions”) left.

    For example, the Climate Act (Net Zero), the Human Rights Act (“rights” in the opposite sense of the American Bill of Rights), and the Equality Act (which essentially makes DEI the lodestar).

    These Acts were all passed before the Conservative Party came into Office in 2010 – but the failure to repeal any of them has made the Conservatives basically powerless – “in Office but NOT in Power”.

    There is also the belief system of the judges and officials – what they have been educated and trained to believe (which guides what they see “law” and “justice”) to be.

    If you get the great Justices of the history of this island – men such as Chief Justice Coke and Chief Justice Sir John Holt (both heroes to the Founding Fathers of the United States) and then turn-it-inside-out you have the belief system of modern judges (and officials).

    Neutral language such as “several countervailing centers” misses-the-point.

    The point being the belief system of the people involved – who are presently dominated by leftism which is just about the opposite of the principles of the Common Law.

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b
    I would have thought that the principle of separation of governmental power

    The Westminster system is really rather different, where the executive and most of the leaders of executive branches are also in the legislative and accountable to it in a very direct manner.

    In many ways I want the federal idea of separation of powers to be better, but I do wonder if practically Westminster is better. Probably for the simple reason that ministers, and the prime minister himself, are subject to questioning by the whole house of commons regularly.

    I’d be happy to change our whole American system of government just for the opportunity to see Joe Biden take the equivalent of Prime Minister’s questions. Or for that matter Trump. The former pathetic, painful to watch, the latter hilariously entertaining.

    I find the obsequious attitude of Americans toward the US President enough to make me retch… and that is even when I like him. And while I am ranting, I loathe this practice of Americans of calling an ex-government official by the title of their last government job long after they left (or were made to leave). Governor Haley, President Trump, Secretary Clinton, Vice President Gore. It is what Americans do because they don’t have Dukes and Viscounts. It is designed to promulgate the idea that “public servant” is something done for you rather than something done to you.

  • Mark

    @Fraser Orr

    I’m a principled Republican but over the last few decades have become a pragmatic monarchist because, basically, this sort of thinking.

    I can’t offer, well, rational reasons for that belief but there are plenty of real world examples of presidents and potantates believing themselves to be kings and acting accordingly.

    Peter Hitchens puts it quite well. The constitutional monarch acts like the king on a chessboard, occupying a position so nobody else can.

    Biden in a prime minister’s question time. The mind boggles!

    But a US president does have distinctly monarchical powers, which I thought was the point. It’s not the current vegetable in chief though, it’s what has happened to the rigorously thought out checks and balances, clearly stated in black and white for anybody to read.

    Wonder how Wilson would have done? Or Kennedy, Johnson, damn, honest Abe himself?

    Not picking on the US by any means. There are a few french presidents (I.e. all of them) who would be very entertaining to consider.

  • James Hargrave

    In view of the ‘supreme court’ treading blatantly (egregiously?), and without the slightest sense of modesty or history, into matters (Parliament) from which courts were specifically excluded in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution, I think it appropriate that judges should revert to their pre-1689 position serving ‘at pleasure’ and prone to occasional stays in the Tower.

    The ‘supremes’ wrecked a perfectly good building and, for formal occasions, have kitted themselves out in Iolanthe cast-offs.

    Blame Blair, but also Bingham of Cornhill CJ and some of his colleagues (not all) who were happy to go along with it.

  • Roué le Jour

    Fraser Orr,
    When comparing and contrasting the US and UK systems, it would be ridiculous to think of, say, the Republicans simply removing a president, as the Conservatives casually do to prime ministers. It is a disgusting and undemocratic practice and there would be outrage if a king did it.

    I also like to think of myself as a monarchist, as kings have more to lose that PMs, but considering king sausage fingers is perfectly comfortable with wrecking the economy in the name of net zero, and destroying society with mass migration, I’m rethinking. Perhaps if Charles were to hand the reins over to his sister during his illness we might get some common sense.

  • Paul Marks

    No political system will be any good if the belief system of the people in it is wrong.

  • rhoda klapp

    But now we have Klaus. In a position of self-appointed leader of the world. And this is where the Westminster system as described by Paul falls down, it has surrendered to supra-national influences and there is no recourse to a constitution because parliament can claim to be sovereign (they’re not, we the people are) and governs as a local council, carrying out policy imposed from above and devolving responsibility to unaccountable quangoes below. And ignoring the Bill of Rights 1689ish which says they only have the right to rule if they don’t work for foreign princes but for the sovereign people.

  • Mr Ed

    The UK’s Supreme Court always struck me as both a Leftie’s Wet Dream, imagining having 12 RBGs sitting above Parliament and striking down any law that was insufficiently compliant with Human Rights principles, hence banning the deportation of foreign rapists etc. and a desperate attempt to ‘ape’ the US. Of course, my reading of the US Constitution is that the Congress is ultimately supreme, the ‘Supreme Court’ is ‘supreme’ as regards any other federal courts as the Congress may establish and to ensure that State courts keep within the bounds of the Federal Constitution, and to resolve disputes between the States, like the border war over Toledo, Ohio.

    The House of Lords Appellate Committee was more or less by accident the UK’s Supreme Court for a long time, albeit not in regard to Scots Criminal Law, which remained a matter for the Scots courts (The High Court of Justiciary). The UKSC actually encroached on Scots criminal law on the basis of Human Rights considerations, which is a Constitutional Outrage, and claimed itself the right to rule on Scots Criminal law cases where there is a Human Rights angle. There was a justification for reforming the House of Lords, not on the bogus ground of separation of powers, but because the devolution introduced at the end of the 20th century led to a need to resolve disputes between the devolved and national government over their respective powers. It should be noted that unlike the USA, there is no ‘dual sovereignty’ issue in the UK, there are three legal systems: England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with no State/Federal duality.

    I would also add that the UKSC’s ruling on prorogation (a spiteful protest against ‘Brexit’) was a naked power grab by the UKSC intruding on the proceedings in Parliament (which it was ostensibly intended to be apart from). I would think that a Bill of Attainder would not be objectionable for such a treasonous power grab, but it is a matter for Parliament.

    The change from the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords to the Supreme Court (UKSC) brought with it the same personnel, the same wine in new bottles, and a rise in the order of precedence for the President of the Supreme Court, but it also messed up the role of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, same people as the UKSC, (more or less) with different hats.

    What for reform?

    In the UK, the legal profession is so overwhelmingly what some deride as ‘smug Metropolitan Liberal’ that I doubt that they even have the self-awareness to realise how their views are perceived. Judges are like vegetables that take up nutrients from the soil they grow in, and you will not find any diversity of opinion in the UK’s judiciary, who were wholly behind the Covid Terror.

    I would think that a better solution would be to scrap the UKSC, and replace it with a committee who job it would be to hear cases on appeal from the other courts, and then make a recommendation to Parliament for Parliament to adopt or not by a resolution of either the House of Commons (in tax cases) or both Houses in other matters, so they have no power other than to advise, and Parliament retains control of the law.

  • Mark

    @Roue le Jour

    Yes, get it totally, but a constitutional monarch fulfils the blocking role no matter what sort of a bell end he is.

    The Queen fulfilled the role very well. Don’t know about you, but I’m not particularly surprised at the homely musings of wingnut I.

    Getting rid of the monarchy is seen by far to many as something purely symbolic, but like “lets just rejoin”, it would be a truly profound change to the constitutional arrangements of this country.

    I’d put up with king Lineker I to be honest rather than let the monarch’s symbolic powers become real in the hands of some placeman piece of globo-filth.

  • Martin

    17-18 year old me, reading what in hindsight were pretty hagiographic books about the American founding, thought to myself it would be rather neat if Britain also had a written Constitution and a Supreme Court. This idea soon passed, as it dawned on me that even if these were laudable things (questionable), any such constitution and court would be drafted and designed in this day and age by 21st century social democrats and neoliberals, not 18th century statesmen, and would reflect their ideologies. Well Britain avoided the written constitution, but the Supreme Court was a New Labour institution, and fully reflects that. I was in my mid-20s by the time the court was established, and was wholly against it. Those who used to reassure us that Blair, Brown, etc were safe moderates were completely wrong (or malevolent). Just because they pushed through some privatisations and didn’t drastically raise taxes to 1970s levels doesn’t negate that in many respects it was one of the most revolutionary governments in British history.

  • bobby b

    In the U.S., one of our prime strengths is found in our four-page Constitution, which sets out first principles and philosophies as guides which have set our path for many years.

    In South Africa, one of their prime weaknesses is now found in their relatively new constitution – a preamble followed by fourteen chapters containing 244 sections, and eight schedules – which turned into the ultimate progressive wish-list of statutory minutia elevated into supermajority status.

    We are guided by our Constitution. SA is hobbled by theirs. The difference, as pointed out by Martin, lies in who drafted them.

    You cannot draft a principled document if you have no principles other than “gimme.”

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b
    We are guided by our Constitution. SA is hobbled by theirs. The difference, as pointed out by Martin, lies in who drafted them.

    That and word processors. I have often thought government would be much better if we didn’t let them have computers.

  • Kirk

    Fraser Orr said:

    That and word processors. I have often thought government would be much better if we didn’t let them have computers.

    Truer words have never been posted…

    I have this theory about where the hell all the vaunted “computer-aided productivity” we were supposed to be experiencing by now went. It vanished in a puff of TPS reports.

    One of the things I observed over the course of my military career was that as the computer came in and enabled theoretical control down to the micro-level, the bosses all glommed onto that with unholy glee. To give an example, when I first enlisted back in ye darke ages, the training schedules were all run off on a typewriter and a mimeograph machine, and the one guy in the company that could make all that work (he was an artiste with the little spatulas that you used to make corrections to the coated paper…) was exempt from all other duties and treated like he sat at the right hand of God… Which he did, because the First Sergeant regarded his abilities as a dark art. I suspect that they were…

    In any event, back then? You had basically three or four things on the training schedule: “Sergeant’s Time” “Platoon Leader’s Time” and “Commander’s Time”. Also, meals. That was it; you were expected to have your act together as a squad leader, platoon leader, or company commander. If you didn’t? You were toast if someone higher came by on a surprise inspection and found you screwing off. You had the latitude to do whatever training you liked, at your judgment. You had control, you had authority.

    As the computer wormed its way into the heart of the Army’s daily operations, all of a sudden it appeared as though they could document and control every single fifteen-minute block of time during each and every day. So, they did; the new doctrine that came in wanted you to plan what you’d be doing six weeks out, in terms of training and whatever. The training plans started getting briefed, and woe betide anyone not following them. The problem was, you just couldn’t project out even a week about how many people would be available for training, or what else might be going on. As a result? You suddenly had far less effective training, and they started doing exponentially more talking about training than actually doing it…

    All because the computer enabled that. Where the typewriter/mimeograph enforced a certain realism and discipline about making changes, as well as shattering any illusions about being able to plan that far out, the computer played into all the fantasies that the brass had about that line of micro-managing control. With predictable results…

    Same things have gone on in civilian business. The insatiable demand for useless information, the attempts at micromanagement? All there. And, that’s where all the productivity has gone. Instead of doing the work, everyone is answering inane information requests that higher authorities demand in order to justify their existence and look like they’re doing something.

    I’d wager that about 90% of what we do with modern data-processing gear is entirely extraneous and wouldn’t have been demanded of anyone a hundred years ago. We’ve also managed to take executives out of doing actual executive work, and made them highly-paid secretarial and typing staff when they do their own work on the computer…

    The whole thing is nuts. I’m reminded of the Vietnam War, where you had brigade commanders flying overhead of platoons in action, micro-managing the platoon leaders from the air.

    We very badly need to develop and enforce a policy of “information discipline” akin to what the military had when it had something it termed “supply discipline”, which basically said “Don’t ask for more than you really need, and don’t waste what you have…”

  • James Hargrave

    “I would also add that the UKSC’s ruling on prorogation (a spiteful protest against ‘Brexit’) was a naked power grab by the UKSC intruding on the proceedings in Parliament (which it was ostensibly intended to be apart from). I would think that a Bill of Attainder would not be objectionable for such a treasonous power grab, but it is a matter for Parliament.”

    Absolutely, and with suitable punishment that reduces the physical stature of those attainted.

  • Paul Marks

    I keep having to repeat the same point – what matters is the belief system of the people, such as judges, in charge.

    Some of the people involved in the drafting of the South African Constitution were good people – but the judges are leftists, so it does-not-matter what the text of the Constitution is.

    The United States Constitution forbids the violation of contracts – but the Supreme Court, 5 votes to 4, upheld the government violating the gold clauses in all contracts (public and private) – so it did not matter what the United States Constitution said (about contracts – or about gold and silver coin being the only legal tender in any State).

    The “common defense and general welfare” is clearly the PURPOSE of the spending powers granted to the Congress by Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution of the United States.

    But the Federal Government says it has a “general welfare spending power” and the Supreme Court supports this lie – so there we are.

    Yet again – what matters is the belief system of the judges.

    If you have leftist judges, or judges who are being pressured (or blackmailed) to make leftist judgements, it does not matter what the text of the Constitution or the law is.

    The judiciary are not an apolitical part of government – there is no such thing as an apolitical part of government.

    Americans should know this better than anyone – for example in the 1960s the Supreme Court ripped up centuries of vagrancy laws (on a whim – yes whim), and also declared that State Senates must reflect population – when it was the basic function of State Senates NOT to reflect population (to act as a check on the cities), and-so-on.

    Not only did the Supreme Court ignore what was in the Constitution (for example concerning contracts and money) it enforced things that were not in the Constitution (stuff it just made up).

    So none of this is recent.

    And it is the same with JURIES.

    A conservative (or even someone declared to be a conservative – when they are not) can not expect a fair trial before a jury of leftists.

    The left know this – and, in both Britain and the United States, try to make sure they control the jury. But conservatives have this delusional belief that juries will be objective and not bring their beliefs with them into the jury room.

    The most important thing about members of a jury (just as with a judge or anyone else) is “which side are they on?”

  • Paul Marks

    In 1991 the CND traitors who helped the Soviet agent George Blake escape from prison were put on trial.

    The jury found them “innocent” – the jury knew they were guilty, but shared their traitor political stance.

    There is no excuse for believing that trials are objective – if a jury is made up of the enemy, the guilty will be found innocent, and the innocent will be found guilty (yes jurors will find innocent people guilty – and will giggle about it, as they recently did in the Civil Trial of Donald Trump, and the criminal trial of the policeman framed in the case of Mr George Floyd dying of the drugs he had willingly consumed).

    It is the same in the United States – and it is about time that conservatives woke up to reality.

    For example, there is no point in holding a trial for theft – if the jury is made up of people who support “Social Justice” – plundering, theft.

    What matters is the belief system of the people making the decisions – be they judges or members of a jury.

  • The jury found them “innocent” – the jury knew they were guilty, but shared their traitor political stance.

    True but jury nullification works both ways.

  • Paul from Canada

    “I have this theory about where the hell all the vaunted “computer-aided productivity” we were supposed to be experiencing by now went. It vanished in a puff of TPS reports…..”

    That, and the ease of producing paper. In the bad old days of typewriters and carbon paper, it was very hard to produce very many copies. At best, you might be able to get four copies out of type and carbon paper. One original, one for the filing cabinet, one for the main recipient, and one for “circ”. Remember “circulation slips? The manila folder with the one copy of the document, passed from hand to hand of those whose names were written on the “circ slip”, all of whom would “read and sign”.

    Now you just make as many copies as you want, and send to anyone even remotely connected to the issue, rather than ruthlessly pare down to only those who really need to know.

    Same with email. Add as many Cc’s as you want and be sure to “reply all” to ensure no one is left “out of the loop”…..

  • Lee Moore

    A reasonable starting point for an actual conservative government would be a Consolidated Repeal Bill repealing all legislation (except Brexit) passed since 1997.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Paul from Canada
    “I have this theory about where the hell all the vaunted “computer-aided productivity” we were supposed to be experiencing by now went. It vanished in a puff of TPS reports…..”

    I think you might be quoting someone here, so sorry if I am misattributing. But this is just simply wrong. Computer systems have transformed the efficiency of business operation. For example, supermarkets as we have them today would simply be impossible without computers. Capital markets and individual’s access to capital markets (as shareholders at least) have been utterly transformed by computers and the web. Cell phones would not exist without the computers to design them, the computers to control their manufacture, and the computers to manage their distribution and networks.

    One of the reasons for the success of companies like Amazon, Samsung, and the production side of Apple and Microsoft, is due to computers. The traditional hierarchy within a business has this filtering effect where data from the collection point gets filtered and manipulated through each layer of middle manager putting forth their own agenda, to the point where senior managers had very late, inaccurate, and corrupted data to decide. Companies like Amazon have gigantic amounts of data very directly from the source and immediately. It is a miracle of modern technology and it is all due to IT.

    I suggested denying government access to computers specifically to deny them this sort of efficiency. The last thing you want is a government that is good at implementing their tyrannical ideas. The more TPS reports they produce the better off we are.

  • Paul from Canada


    I was quoting directly quoting Kirk, and the comment was amplifying his point.

    Also, you have misunderstood both our points, I think. It is not that computers per say ruin efficiency. I work in aviation, (flight planning and operations), and computers have improved the safety and efficiency of what we do by an almost breathtaking amount. True operational processes have been improved, no question.

    What Kirk and I are referring to is the facilitation of bureaucracy, bloat, and adding needless complexity to administration, because technology makes it easier to do so. My flightplanning software is a boon to my productivity. The blizzard of emails I get because my boss likes to “reply all”, to “keep everyone in the loop” most certainly does not. Info tech also allows a lot of things to be measures, which causes the temptation to measure them regardless of whether measuring a particular metric actually provides any benefit.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Paul from Canada
    Also, you have misunderstood both our points, I think. It is not that computers per say ruin efficiency.

    I think I understood well enough. Ther question is “where the hell all the vaunted computer-aided productivity went”, as if it didn’t exist. Of course all change comes with some downside, but you might want to consider ways that technology also fixes these problems.

    And even at the present stage, I think it is hard to imagine what the past was like. The amount of bullshit that was generated in paper memos when we had layers and layers and layers of middle managers. The email reply all thing is certainly because it is easy, but also because hierarchies are much flatter precisely because of the efficiency of information transmittal we have now. Modern companies are full of useless people that contribute close to (and occasionally less than) zero. But that is because the modern firm is really still adapting to the changes technology has brought about and the accordingly required structural changes.

    I remember a number of years ago (remembering that I have worked in computers a LONG time) seeing a documentary of the ATC center at Heathrow airport. They tracked the planes with little slips of paper, that they moved around, and the runway was planned with little slips of paper on a model runway. When they “put you in the stack” they meant a literal stack of literal pieces of paper. OMG, as you say, the change with computers in terms of accuracy, safety and throughput must be insane. Surely that is worth a few excessive reply alls?

    FWIW, at work I rarely read my email. Nobody I know sends anything important by email with out saying something like “hey I send that to your inbox, please check it out.”

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