The Daily Mail is not my favourite newspaper, even though there are many people who do like it. It has a “Little Englander” attitude which grates on the nerves and has a clear list of “villains” who it regularly castigates as representative of the evils which bedevil the United Kingdom/England today.
In the words of Dermot O’Leary, “in no particular order”, they include:-
- Tony Blair;
- The BBC;
- Politicians who are not Conservatives;
- The BBC;
- Benefit claimants scroungers;
- Female celebrities who look fat (or who, to a more rational mind, look human);
- Lindsey Lohan;
- Trades Unions;
- Companies which do not pay taxes;
- Supporters of Scottish independence;
- Cherie Blair;
- Irish Nationalist politicians;
- Muslims; (Whilst clearly the Mail cannot hate or fear every follower of Islam, they only seem to get mentioned in the paper in the context of terrorism and destruction of the “British way of life”).
- The BBC. (The Mail really does not like the BBC).
It was therefore not a surprise to see the Mail’s reaction to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in relation to the application by three prisoners sentenced to “whole life” tariffs for murder.
In that case the judges ruled that it was unlawful to give someone a “whole life” sentence and therefore these interfering European busybodies were telling the British public that these evil murderers should in fact be free to walk the streets.***
***Before anyone thinks I have gone mad, that is NOT actually what the decision said, but, from reading much of the media coverage and politicians’ reactions, you would think that WAS what they said.
The Daily Mail boasts some excellent writers, for all of its faults. It is also an undeniably successful media product. Max Hastings, former newspaper editor, and the journalist who “yomped” with the Marines into Port Stanley in the Falklands War, has written many fine books, especially on aspects of World War II. However, even with such a fine pedigree, he can still trot out rubbish if it suits the editorial line of the paper for which he is writing!
I won’t go through his full piece, as I have a more appropriate target for my next post, but some of his pearls of wisdom are as follows (with my comments in bold beneath each section):-
Take it away Max!
Human Rights legislation has become a great divider of the British people, a definer of identities. On one side of the argument stand the Liberal Democrats; Cherie Blair as a standard-bearer of the legal profession which waxes fat on HR spoils; and all those want to remake Britain as a model of Scandinavian social rectitude. In the other camp is almost everyone who believes that Britain is, on the whole and of its own making, a decent place upholding decent values.
The stranglehold which HR now exercises on the way we conduct our affairs, to the advantage of no one save terrorists and the aforesaid lawyers, has become a very bad joke.
So the only people who approve of the ECHR are (stops to spit the words) “Liberal Democrats”, Cherie Blair, fat and greedy lawyers and people who want Britain to be like Scandinavia (I’m not quite sure what the Vikings have done to earn Mr Hastings’ dislike).
The people who oppose the ECHR are “almost everyone who believes that Britain is, on the whole and of its own making, a decent place upholding decent values”.
By implication therefore the only cases which the UK loses at the European Court will be those where daft foreigners find that “the British Way” is wrong, even though, by definition, it must be right.
Yesterday’s verdict from the European Court of Human Rights, branding whole-life tariffs for murderers in British prisons as ‘inhuman and degrading’, represents an insulting intrusion into our national affairs, made by people who are quite unfit to influence them.
As we will see, that is a most cursory statement of the verdict, and ignores the lengthy and closely argued verdict of the court. However, as an historian, I am sure Mr Hastings will present evidence explaining why the judges are “unfit” to influence “our national affairs”.
… every year, a raft of British cases reaches Strasbourg — almost invariably involving legally aided appellants at a cost to the public purse of hundreds of thousands of pounds — of a kind of which no one would have dreamt six decades back.
Not from Scotland …
The Scottish Legal Aid Board website makes it clear that it will not grant Legal Aid to solicitors in Scotland to pursue cases before the European Court of Human Rights, as these are NOT matters of Scots law. Bearing in mind the ravaging of Legal Aid in England, I find it hard to imagine that there is much if any availability of assistance for complaints from south of the border to the ECHR either.
… It seems intolerable that 16 Strasbourg judges should dictate to Britain how it addresses crime and punishment.
Why is it “intolerable” that 16 Strasbourg judges should “dictate” to Britain? This strikes me as offensive and as illogical as the Scottish government’s moaning about the “foreign judges” of the UK Supreme Court at the time of the Cadder case.
And what judges! I looked up the list, which includes Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos from Greece, Dragoljub Popovic from Serbia, Nona Tsotoria from Georgia, Nebojsa Vucinic from Montenegro.
Ah – here comes the analysis of the judges and their abilities or prejudices, and an indication of why their judgements should be ignored.
No. It doesn’t. Mr Hastings’ “analysis” seems to be summed up in the paragraph below (which he did NOT write, but might as well have done).
Look at those funny names! How on earth can the UK be dictated to by people from places like (sniffs) Serbia…Georgia…Montenegro…Greece! And a judge called Linos-Alexandre? And a Dragoljub? And Nona and Nebojsa! How can people with those names be able to tell Britain anything! After all, their countries never even formed part of the Empire!
Now, I am sure Mr Hastings is not a xenophobe, but he can, at least in this piece, do a good impression of one!
The court includes one British member named Paul Mahoney. He spent most of his career as a law lecturer, with a couple of years as a practising barrister, and a spell as a visiting professor at the University of Saskatchewan. He then attached himself to the great European gravy train by becoming an administrator at the Court of Human Rights, before gravitating to a judgeship.
I have nothing against Saskatchewan, and I am sure Paul Mahoney is a fine, upstanding Eurocrat. But I cannot for the life of me think of any reason why he is an appropriate person — any more than is Nebojsa Vucinic — to decide whether Jeremy Bamber should, or should not, have any claim to a review of his life sentence.
How poorly qualified our own British judge is! Look! He was a law lecturer for “most of his career” – a barrister for a “couple of years” and then professor of law at a university with a silly foreign name!
I far more respect Joshua Rozenberg’s opinions and he was surprised at Mr Mahoney’s appointment, but at the same time he did give a more accurate précis of his career and why he was chosen. The following comes from his piece in the Guardian when Mr Mahoney was on the point of being chosen.
Having tipped Ben Emmerson QC as the favourite, I then learned that the Conservatives at Westminster were mounting a campaign on behalf of a candidate they regarded as more right-wing. Reporting this in April, I pointed out that Christopher Chope, a Conservative MP, chairs the parliamentary assembly’s human rights committee and is an ex-officio member of the 30-person sub-committee that interviews the candidates for judicial appointment and makes recommendations to the full assembly.
Mahoney has a lot going for him. He is fluent in French, which Emmerson is not. He has a specialist knowledge of human rights law, which Agnello does not. As registrar or deputy registrar of the Strasbourg court for 10 years, he drafted many of its judgments. After that, he spent five years chairing the EU staff court.
In fact he was a law lecturer for 6 years, before working with the ECHR for 31 years, then being president of the European Union Civil Service Tribunal for six years before coming back to the ECHR.
So in fact the disrespected Mr Mahoney was appointed, apparently, at the instance of the Conservatives!
Human rights, once a fine phrase defining a noble cause, has been debased by foolish judges at home, as well as abroad. It was our own Supreme Court which decided last month that the families of British soldiers killed in action should be able to sue the Government, if negligence had contributed to their deaths.
How dare the court permit families of servicemen killed because the Government was negligent to sue the MoD! What a disgrace! Although, as the Daily Mail is a vigorous supporter of the armed forces, then surely it would welcome a decision which gave families of servicemen the same rights as other “employees” or does Mr Hastings believe instead that soldiers should be proud to die for the country, even where death is because the MoD gets something dreadfully wrong?
Today’s Daily Mail website gives the top of the home page over to the funeral arrangements for Lee Rigby, the soldier murdered outside Woolwich Barracks recently. But for all of the recognition of the important job the army does, let’s treat them as cannon fodder anyway? That seems to be the argument.
Judge-made law is an ever-increasing threat to the conduct of a sensible society, and to respect for the wishes of parliament and the British people.
Rubbish Mr Hastings!
I am sure that Mr Hastings, like the Daily Mail, would be a staunch supporter of the English “common law”. If it was good enough for Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell, then it should be good enough for today. But surely the common law is predominantly “judge made law”?
Is Mr Hastings’ compliant not simply that the judges disagree, never mind the reasons, with his point of view?
And how should we prevent judges “making law”? After all, our legislation is sometimes drafted in ways which render it ambiguous or in conflict with sense or which mean that it does not do what it is intended. The courts have to fix that mess and by “interpreting” the law they do “make” it. Should they instead say “That legislation is unjust – it is ambiguous and causes more mischief than it seeks to prevent, but having pointed this out, we must allow it to be used in a way which clearly is contrary to its intention”?
Mr Hastings, who is not a lawyer and therefore might be forgiven for his ignorance on this, would have the judges say exactly that.
It seems intolerable for this country to remain in thrall to the Strasbourg Court, and its ever more intrusive and absurd judgments.
In thrall to Strasbourg? Well, it is a foreign place after all – what else can we expect? We are subject to its judgements because the Government, long ago, signed up to it.
What message would it give if the UK Government now withdrew from the ECHR? How much comfort would that be to less democratic and more unfair states who could then justify their own refusal to abide by the rules by saying that if a fine country like the UK thinks the Convention is now unfit for purpose, they should not have to follow its tenets either?
It is grotesque that a cluster of ill-qualified judges, several of them drawn from the most corrupt and ill-governed nations in Europe, should abuse their powers to lay down law, quite literally, to the Government of Britain.
It is grotesque that a major commentator on one of the most popular newspapers in Britain chooses, without offering any evidence other than of them having “funny names”, to castigate some of the most senior judges in Europe who see their role as one of protecting the citizen against abuse by government. It is grotesque that he accuses them of abusing their powers by “laying down the law”, when there is no doubt they have that power to do that very thing! It is grotesque to misrepresent what the court does and to dismiss its decision in this case, without any comment on the merits of the decision or the reasoning of the court.
And they only choose to do so when a majority of the judges determines that the Government has been guilty of abusing the human rights of the people who are ruled by that very same Government!
Theresa May is right to say that, whatever the difficulties, we must break the chains of thralldom to Strasbourg.
As I said above, rubbish Mr Hastings.
You might think that that piece of nonsense was as bad as it could get. However the good old Daily Mail also trotted out another writer to pen a piece which might as well have been written by a stereotypical taxi driver.
So my next post will look at what Driver Number 312 had to say – his name – Chris Grayling.
Posted by Paul McConville