Mike Vickers' Blog

September 19, 2019

Newton and Prorogation of the UK Parliament

Filed under: Bill of Rights, Brexit, Dictatorship, Gina Miller, History in the making, Johnson, Law, Newton — derryvickers @ 7:13 pm

Isaac Newton in 1675: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”.

Equally this applies to Law as it does to Mechanics.

So much is Case Law.

But with the Prorogation of Parliament by Johnson, there is too few Cases to build on other than the Bill of Rights 1688.

I note in his closing submissions, Keen said the judges should decline to become involved. “Whether it is dissolution or prorogation [of parliament], this is forbidden territory … It is a matter between the executive and parliament.

But this is a not possible as, as Parliament is not in session, the matter cannot be resolved ‘between the executive and parliament’

He continues “The applicants and petitioners are inviting the court into forbidden territory and an ill-defined minefield that the courts are not properly equipped to deal with.”

Nevertheless, the Bill of Rights 1688 provides for:

Dispensing and Suspending Power.

By Assumeing and Exerciseing a Power of Dispensing with and Suspending of Lawes and the Execution of Lawes without Consent of Parlyament

And can we expect Johnson now to tamper with:

Violating Elections.

By Violating the Freedome of Election of Members to serve in Parlyament

The real question remains, is the Executive above or subservient to the Parliament. Is the Executive ‘The Queen in Parliament’ and, even if so, the Bill of Rights states that ‘Exercising a Power of Dispensing with and Suspending of Lawes and the Execution of Lawes without Consent of Parlyament’.

We can only wait a see what the conclusions of Supreme Court comes up with. What ever verdict is arrived at we may hope that we can be able to, as Newton says, Stand on the shoulders of Giants for the future.

BTW Bill Jameson in today’s Scotsman suggests that if the Supreme Court cannot come to an agreed verdict it could appeal to the European Court of Justice.

September 1, 2019

Yes it’s a Coup

Filed under: Brexit, Dictatorship, George Orwell, Patrick Cockburn, Politics — derryvickers @ 8:44 am

 

Patrick Cockburn in Saturday’s Independent

Britain is experiencing a slow-moving coup d’etat in which a right-wing government progressively closes down or marginalises effective opposition to its rule. It concentrates power in its own hands by stifling parliament, denouncing its opponents as traitors to the nation, displacing critics in its own ranks, and purging non-partisan civil servants.

Some describe this as “a very British coup”, which gives the operation a warmer and fuzzier feeling than it deserves. It is, in fact, distinctly “un-British” in the sense that the coup makers ignore or manipulate the traditional unwritten rules of British politics over the past 400 years whereby no single faction or institution monopolises authority.

What we are seeing has nothing to do with the British past but a very modern coup in which a demagogic nationalist populist authoritarian leader vaults into power through quasi-democratic means and makes sure that he cannot be removed.

This new method of seizing power has largely replaced the old-fashioned military coup d’etat in which soldiers and tanks captured headquarters and hubs in the capital and took over the TV and radio stations. Likely opponents were rounded up or fled the country. The military leaders sought popular passivity rather than vocal support.

I first witnessed the new type of coup in action three years ago in Turkey when it took place in reaction to an old-fashioned military coup. Part of the Turkish army tried to stage a military putsch on 15 July 2016 and provided the then prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with what appeared to him to be a heaven-sent opportunity to install an elective dictatorship in which subsequent elections and the real distribution of power could be pre-determined by control of the media, judiciary, civil service, security services and, if people still stubbornly voted against the government, by outright electoral fraud.

I spoke to plenty of people in Istanbul in the days after the abortive military coup who saw clearly that its failure meant that they might have escaped rule by the army, but only at the cost of being gripped ever more tightly by civilian authoritarian rule.

“Erdogan’s lust for power is too great for him to show restraint in stifling opposition in general,” predicted one intellectual who, like almost everybody I was interviewing at this time, would only speak anonymously. This was certainly wise: TV stations, radios, newspapers, critics of all sorts were being closed down by the minute. When one small-circulation satirical magazine dared to publish a cartoon mildly critical of the government, the police went from shop to shop confiscating copies.

Some Turks comforted themselves by quoting the saying that in government “the worst politician is better than the best general”. Three years later, those not forced into silence, in exile or in prison may not be so certain that the difference between a civilian and a military dictatorship is quite so great.

The PM worries about damaging trust in politics – but he is the damage

By the day of the referendum in 2017, some 145,000 people had been detained, 134,000 sacked, and 150 media outlets closed. No act of persecution was too petty or cruel: one opposition MP, who denounced the “yes” vote, found that his 88-year-old mother had been discharged by way of retaliation from a hospital where she had been under treatment for two-and-a-half years.

Less than a year after the failed military coup, Erdogan held a blatantly rigged referendum which marginalised parliament and gave him dictatorial powers. Despite the harassment and silencing of critics, it passed by only 51.4 per cent in favour of these constitutional changes as opposed to 48.6 per cent against. Even this narrow majority was only achieved late on election night when the head of the electoral board overseeing the election decided that votes not stamped as legally valid, numbering as many as 1.5 million, would be counted as valid, quite contrary to practice in previous Turkish elections.

Turkish elections are not a complete farce as in Egypt and Syria, as was shown by the election of an opposition candidate as mayor of Istanbul earlier this year. But the political process as a whole is now so skewed towards Erdogan that it will be extraordinarily difficult

 I spoke to plenty of people in Istanbul in the days after the abortive military coup who saw clearly that its failure meant that they might have escaped rule by the army, but only at the cost of being gripped ever more tightly by civilian authoritarian rule.

“Erdogan’s lust for power is too great for him to show restraint in stifling opposition in general,” predicted one intellectual who, like almost everybody I was interviewing at this time, would only speak anonymously. This was certainly wise: TV stations, radios, newspapers, critics of all sorts were being closed down by the minute. When one small-circulation satirical magazine dared to publish a cartoon mildly critical of the government, the police went from shop to shop confiscating copies.

Some Turks comforted themselves by quoting the saying that in government “the worst politician is better than the best general”. Three years later, those not forced into silence, in exile or in prison may not be so certain that the difference between a civilian and a military dictatorship is quite so great.

The PM worries about damaging trust in politics – but he is the damage

By the day of the referendum in 2017, some 145,000 people had been detained, 134,000 sacked, and 150 media outlets closed. No act of persecution was too petty or cruel: one opposition MP, who denounced the “yes” vote, found that his 88-year-old mother had been discharged by way of retaliation from a hospital where she had been under treatment for two-and-a-half years. Could the same thing happen here in Britain? This is one of the strengths of the Johnson coup: many people cannot believe that it has happened. British exceptionalism means that foreign experience is not relevant. Few knew or cared that Turkey had a strong tradition of parliamentary democracy as well as a grim record of military takeovers. But it is these slow-burn civilian coups which are such a feature of the modern world that we should be looking at – and trying to learn from – and nor what happened in Britain in the 1630s when Charles I sought to impose arbitrary government.  Opponents of the suspension of the parliament have a touching faith that the present government will stick by the historic rules of the political game when everything it has done so far shows a determination to manipulate and misuse these rules to gain and keep political power. Progressive Turks have been down this road and knew all too well what lay at the end of it. Revolutionaries on the left suddenly discover that the right also stages revolutions and that there is virtue in a fairly elected parliament. “So here I am, gone from post-structuralist anarchist to ballot-box monitor,” tweeted one Turkish convert to this view as he vainly tried to thwart fraudulent elections.

Many in Britain are now springing to the defence of parliament and elected representation, but they should have sprung a bit earlier. Those in the Labour Party who were neutral about Brexit – or even saw it as a welcome disruption of the status quo and an opportunity for radical reform – only now seem to be noticing that Brexit was always a vehicle whereby the hard right could take over the government.

Chants of ‘Boris out’ outside British embassy in Brussels

Turkish elections are not a complete farce as in Egypt and Syria, as was shown by the election of an opposition candidate as mayor of Istanbul earlier this year. But the political process as a whole is now so skewed towards Erdogan that it will be extraordinarily difficult to dislodge him. This is a feature of the 21st-century type coup: once in office, leaders are proving more difficult to evict than a junta of military officers a century earlier.

Less than a year after the failed military coup, Erdogan held a blatantly rigged referendum which marginalised parliament and gave him dictatorial powers. Despite the harassment and silencing of critics, it passed by only 51.4 per cent in favour of these constitutional changes as opposed to 48.6 per cent against. Even this narrow majority was only achieved late on election night when the head of the electoral board overseeing the election decided that votes not stamped as legally valid, numbering as many as 1.5 million, would be counted as valid, quite contrary to practice in previous Turkish elections.

A pro-democracy movement against Boris Johnson has been bornA weakness of such resistance is that its potential leaders, including supposed radicals like Jeremy Corbyn, really do look at Britain’s past as a guide. It is those who have been mocked for trying to recreate a fantasy England, such as Johnson and his chief lieutenants, who are much more in tune with the modern world and instinctively follow in the footsteps of Trump, Erdogan and their like from Washington to Sao Paolo and Budapest to Manila.Successful resistance to this toxic trend means learning from the fresh experience of other nations similarly blighted and not from British history.

 

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/boris-johnson-prorogation-parliament-erdogan-democracy-turkey-a9086011.html

Also a shortened version at:

https://ffrancsais.blogspot.com/2019/09/britain-on-brink-of-coup.html

 

 

August 29, 2019

Gina Miller to the Courts Again

Lawyers for the campaigner Gina Miller have made an urgent application to the high court for a judicial review of Boris Johnson’s plan to prorogue parliament, in the first shot in what will be an intense battle in the coming days to torpedo the prime minister’s plan.

“This is a brazen attempt, of truly historical magnitude, to prevent the executive being held accountable for its conduct before parliament,” said Miller,

“Anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller has as filed an urgent application for a legal challenge to stop Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s “cynical and cowardly” plan to prorogue parliament.

“Whilst prorogation is an acceptable UK constitutional practice, no prime minister in modern history has attempted to use it in such a brazen manner,” Ms Miller wrote on a fundraising website set up fund the urgent application to the high court for a judicial review.

Ms Miller, … said the decision to suspend parliament a few weeks before the Brexit deadline was a “dark day for democracy”.

Opponents say it stop MPs from playing a full part in the Brexit process as the time they will have to pass laws to stop the UK leaving without a deal on 31 October would be cut.

I could add that if MPs fail to get a debate then the UK is heading for 1984.

Lets hope that Gina Miller gets to take her Action to the Supreme Court again and achieve the Rightful Publicity.

And that Bercow can resurrect good precedents.

March 24, 2019

Hannah Arendt – Thinking without a Bannister

Filed under: Europe, Hannah Arendt, Journalism, Politics, Writing — derryvickers @ 9:05 pm

Hannah Arendt Post Truth pioneer – Thinking without a Bannister

New Statesman 22-28 March 2010 by Lyndsey Stonebridge

https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2019/03/hannah-arendt-resurgence-philosophy-relevance

The Article starts with:

“It is true that Arendt loved the public space of politics for the robust clarity it gave to the business of living together. It is also true that she argued for a political republic based on common interest. These are both reasons why we should be reading her today. But her commitment to plurality is not an invitation to nationalism. Arendt wanted politics dragged into the light so that we might see each other for what we are. But that didn’t mean we had to accept what was evidently ruinous to politics itself, merely that we had to acknowledge that what we find most repellent actually exists – and then resist it.

And if there is one thing we have learned over the past two years it is that our political reality is not what we thought it was and still less what we would like it to be. Because the times she lived in were also dark, violent and unpredictable, and because she was smart, diligent and hardworking, Arendt was good at thinking quickly and accurately about the politically and morally unprecedented. She distrusted easy analogies, thought historical precedents were a poor way of grasping the unexpected, and practised instead what she called “thinking without a bannister””

 

A couple more quotes from the Article:

“Even before the full horror of the death camps became clear, Arendt had spotted that the world “found nothing sacred in the abstract nakedness of being human”. It still doesn’t.

This wasn’t just because people had become unempathetic and nasty due to mass propaganda, but was also a consequence of the organisation of the world into nation states. When a person is driven away from one country, she argued, he is expelled from all countries, “which means he is actually expelled from humanity”.”

“It happened again to the Palestinians in 1948. On Israel, Arendt was troubled but again clear-sighted. Like “virtually all other events of the 20th century,” she wrote, “the solution of the Jewish question merely produced a new category of refugees, the Arabs, thereby increasing the number of stateless and rightless by another 700,000 to 800,000 people.””

“The AfD is not wrong to say that power becomes dangerous at the point where there seems to be no public accountability any more. But it is precisely at such moments, Arendt teaches, that we most need to think politically, to resist populism: “When everybody is swept away unthinkingly by what everybody else does and believes in, those who think are drawn out of hiding because… [thinking] becomes a kind of action.””

And the article finishes with

“We cannot guess what she would think of our politics now, and she wouldn’t have respected us for trying. Think for yourself, she would have said. But Arendt left us with an important message: expect and prepare for the worst, but think and act for something better. The impossible is always possible.”

March 6, 2019

Goethe’s Advice

Filed under: Literature, Music, Strindberg, Writing — derryvickers @ 10:47 pm

Further to my blog earlier today

Every day at least to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words” – Goethe

Well this evening it was August Strindberg’s Miss Julie at the Studio Edinburgh (the Studio is a little theatre at the back of the Festival Theater) put on by Perth Theatre.

More than a little song and if possible, a few reasonable words.

Miss Julie is 1.5 hours of hard listening and viewing; very much in the style of Ibsen and Chekhov though much more direct and painful; Miss Julie cuts her throat in the finish. Just three characters; Julie daughter of the big house, Jean, the valet and Christine the kitchen maid, but also the lord of the big house, who is the grey eminence.

You can read more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Julie.

Or if you have time you can see it at the Studio till Saturday 9 March.

Every day at least to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, Music, Personal, Writing — derryvickers @ 3:32 pm

Goethe

In these trying times of Brexit and Austerity, worth a thought each day.

What can I do about it.

Goethe had the right idea

 

March 4, 2019

Stephen Jay Gould – a great loss as a humanist and science writer

Filed under: Journalism, NOMA, Politics, Stephen Jay Gould, World Class, Writing — derryvickers @ 7:29 pm

Cleaning the bookcase out, I came across my collection of Natural History books by Stephen Jay Gould; some 20 in all. The first one I bought was perhaps his first ‘Ever Since Darwin’ at a small book shop in Santa Barbara, a lovely town with glorious Bougainvillea. It was a Sunday and I had a Sunday break from a conference in LA.

So who was Stephen Jay Gould; he died on 22 May 2002

From the obituary in Nature

“Palaeontologist and public face of evolutionary biology

Stephen Jay Gould, the world’s most renowned palaeontologist, died in New York on 20 May [2002]. His death robs the fields of palaeontology and evolution of one of their most provocative thinkers, and millions of readers of an entertaining and astonishingly productive commentator on biology.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/417706a

This describes him to me from his books completely. To me, he was the ultimate Humanist. He believed and publicized Darwin’s evolution and through his books (collections of essays over 20 years) the wonders of evolution are described, not as the progression of evolutary steps to man as the greatest, but as evolution by natural selection at all levels, unlike Dawkins solely through genes and Conway Morris as God directed. He saw evolution as moving forward in jumps, Punctuated Equilibrium, which if I look back in recorded history, is how civilisation has moved forward from Aristotle; he also invented ‘exaptation’, making use of features already there for one purpose to use for something different, he examples birds developed feathers to keep warm before they adapted feathers to fly. He was not popular with his colleagues, who followed Darwin precisely that evolution was gradual over many thousands / millions of years. He had numerous confrontations with Dawkins. He also battled with creationists who pumped out that Whites were superior to Blacks have in bigger brains; Gould successfully refuted this.

But Stephen Jay Gould is dead for almost 18 years and unfortunately, to me, he is gone from the bookshelves, replaced by Dawkins (thought even he is no longer so prevalent).

He was in his lifetime ‘canonised’ by the US Congress as one of America’s living legends.

Unsurprisingly he was not a Christian but he did come forward with NOMA, Non-Overlapping Magisteria

From Wiki
‘Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) is the view that was advocated by Stephen Jay Gould that science and religion each represent different areas of inquiry, fact vs. values, so there is a difference between the “nets”[1] over which they have “a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority,” and the two domains do not overlap.[2]

I personally have difficulty in getting my head round NOMA but never the less it is one way forward in a very difficult area.

Stephen Jay Gould was, for me, a great and erudite writer and a formidable loss to mankind at this time. He will retain a prominent place on my bookshelf,

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