Police Surveillance: Are the Goddard Inquiry Survivor Groups a target?

English: A photo of a traditional "blue l...

English: A photo of a traditional “blue lamp” as located outside most English police stations. This one is outside the Covent Garden Police Station of the Metropolitan Police in London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since 1968, the Police have used undercover tactics to infiltrate groups that posed what they considered a public order threat. Along the way, though, something went wrong. They began to put victims’ families under surveillance and infiltrate victim support groups.[1] The police behaviour follows a trend that raises questions about their role and legitimacy today.

Where is the political oversight for undercover policing of victims’ families?

Although many of these cases are alleged, with some still being investigated, there are IPCC investigation reports and news reports that confirm some of them occurred. Even though neither the reports nor the outcomes are in the public domain, their existence raises questions about the police activity. In particular, they raise questions about the way in which they decided the surveillance was necessary. The Stephen Lawrence Independent Review (Aka Ellison Report) showed the police officers failed to reveal their role during trials, which suggests those convicted may have unsafe verdicts.[2] Moreover, it appears that the undercover police work on victims was a police decision. They were only accountable to themselves. No political oversight of their activity existed. The Home Office have the political oversight for the police[3], yet they were unaware of this work.[4] In light of these disclosures; surveillance of victims, lack of political oversight, and betrayal of due process, the police legitimacy is in question. Although the Metropolitan Police Service have tried to provide a bright and positive image, in recent news programmes such as The Met: Policing London[5], the reality is stark and scary. The police appear to be a law unto themselves, able to pursue anyone with impunity and without independent legal or political oversight.

Why are victims under surveillance is this the behaviour of honourable men?

The first question that emerges is why are victims under surveillance? At first glance, the answer might appear normal. They could be complicit in the crime or they could plan or instigate potential civil unrest. Often time the victims’ families want revenge or they may be part of an ongoing feud. For example, when a gang member kills a rival gang member there is likely to be a retaliatory attack or murder. The police have a public order responsibility to pre-empt and prevent these attacks to maintain public order. In this regard, such surveillance might appear normal. The police have a duty to protect the public and maintain the public order. However, who decides when a victim is a potential threat? What is the criteria for such a decision?

Are the police becoming a paramilitary force to impose order or do they enforce the law?

These questions remain unanswered. The police behaviour raises the issue of their role in society. It is time for a fundamental review of that role. Is the MPS a paramilitary force with responsibility for national security or if it is a law enforcement agency? In the former, a different set of laws apply than in the latter. Espionage is about national security and in that situation, the public safety as the fate of the society, not simply public order, is the higher law. Only when a society faces an existential threat, a threat to its survival, does public safety become the highest law. These situations are rare and exist as an exception to the normal state, which is a healthy political society at peace. By contrast, law enforcement is simply that, it enforces the law. It is not above the law because it only ensures the normal situation of lawful behaviour is sustained. Once the police engage in political espionage, and undercover policing that breaks the law and subverts due process of the law, is espionage, then they stop being law enforcement. The Crown cannot have its cake and eat it too. It cannot claim it rules by law and subvert the law. Otherwise, something else is higher than the rule of law.

Are the police an unelected political actor shaping our public lives?

When they undertake political espionage, or surveillance to gather political intelligence, the police become a political actor. As such, the immediate question has to be answered. Who has authorised that activity? Beyond the issue of who authorises surveillance, which is now covered by RIPA, is the larger question of who has directed the surveillance? Where is the political oversight of that decision? If democratically accountable ministers have not made the decision, then democracy is under threat. In effect, the police act arbitrarily and according to their operational need. The democratically elected Ministers relinquish their responsibility and the police can act as they wish. Such an approach may appear best for operational purposes, yet it undermines democracy and allows arbitrary unelected officials to decide on the targets of domestic political espionage. The police priorities determine the political priorities. It is a system open to abuse, an abuse of power, which undermines democratic legitimacy. Do we want a society where police can abuse their power with impunity and rationalise it as necessary for “public order” or “policing priorities”?

Where is the political oversight?

If the politicians direct this political intelligence gathering, where is the evidence? Where have they been accountable for it? If they don’t make that decision, who does? Is the UK political system one in which the police are a political tool for the government in power? If the police are not acting on political instruction, where is the democratic oversight and accountability? Is Parliament now an empty house where prerogative power rules without legal or political oversight? The end justifies the means only if the end is legitimate. What it appears from this historical trend and the recent reports is that the MPS and other police forces put victims under surveillance. They appear to rationalise it after the fact, as we are never told the criteria or reason for surveillance. Nor has anyone explained how victims could be a public order threat.

Are the Press part of the Police intelligence gathering system?

What is even more troubling is that the press seemed ready and willing to aid the police in their surveillance work. We know from the News International and News Corp employee, the Fake Sheik would work with the MPS to arrest people he had ensnared. We also know from the Milly Dowler case that the News of the World reporters claimed they were helping the police with their enquiries when they telephoned people about Milly Dowler. When the press become part of the intelligence gathering operation, do they cease to be journalists and become police informants? Do journalists continue that role even today with an unspoken agreement? When you talk to the press, are you really talking to the police, as they will betray you as their source if they deem it necessary?

Are the police institutionally corrupt?

In all these cases, there appears to be a corrupt activity.[6] In a corrupt state, violence or the threat of violence pervades all relationships and the public discourse is used to rationalise such violence. Instead of a debate to decide whether to act and to act appropriately, what we find in a corrupt state is its acts are rationalised afterwards. The public debate is used to rationalise the often violent behaviour. Such behaviour would never be approved yet is rationalised afterwards as reputation management and damage control. When we look at the police behaviour through a political filter, we see a pattern of behaviour that should disturb any citizen in a decent society. The police appear to put victims and other parties under surveillance to protect their interests, to provide political intelligence, and then justify it as a public order issue afterwards. Is this the sign of a decent society; a legitimate police force; a government accountable to the public?

The past is prologue: troubling questions for the Goddard Inquiry

With the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse[7] (aka Goddard Inquiry) underway, a new question emerges. Have they placed the victims and survivors groups under surveillance as a potential public order threat? Have they infiltrated these groups with undercover officers? Has the MPS considered infiltrating these groups to investigate their threat to public safety? The historical trend suggest that this is a strong possibility. If we follow the historical logic the MPS appear to have used, it would indicate the victims and survivors are a potential threat to the regime and would need to be infiltrated and placed under surveillance.

The abuse of power occurs when it is unaccountable

Perhaps if the MPS explained these issues, and the senior officer decision process behind them, we would have more confidence in the police. If we had someone explain the reasons why victims’ families were under surveillance and where those reasons were tested we would be able to say we have police with integrity. Integrity exists when you are accountable for your behaviour and decisions. Integrity does not exist when you live by a code that might makes right and power excuses all behaviour. Without accountability the police become bullies with badges where policing becomes violence rationalised as necessary for public safety. All of this done without any oversight by politicians, who themselves have been under surveillance, or the public who are kept ignorant and fearful.[8]

We have a choice, justice or the strong rule the weak.

We have to believe that the police act ethically and support the democratic rights we hold dear. For the most part, this is true and the expected police behaviour is the displayed police behaviour. However, if they believe themselves immune to such expected behaviour, they are protected while citizens suffer surveillance, then it suggests we have a corrupt police force. Worse, it suggests we have a corrupt political system where the strong rule the weak so long as the public are not aware of it.

Is that what recent events have shown to be the relationship between the politics and policing in the UK? Is it time for a change?


[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/10633600/Police-tapped-Hillsborough-families-phones.html




[2]https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-stephen-lawrence-inquiry    See also the case of Mark Kennedy who as an undercover officer infiltrated environmentalist activist group and the trials against the group members collapsed. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/mar/26/mark-kennedy-undercover-cop-environmental-activist See also Bob Lambert’s interview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJ2SFqny9So  For the background to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, it is important to consider the Macphereson report


What is interesting to note is the following quotation from the Scarman Report into the Brixton Disorders.

6.8 In policing terms Lord Scarman also rejected the allegation that the MPS was a racist force. He said:-

“The direction and policies of the Metropolitan Police are not racist. I totally and unequivocally reject the attack made upon the integrity and impartiality of the senior direction of the force. The criticisms lie elsewhere – in errors of judgment, in a lack of imagination and flexibility, but not in deliberate bias or prejudice”. (Para 4.62, p 64).

The quotation is deeply ironic, in the context of this post, given what we now know about the undercover policing activity which was occurring from 1968 onward. Can we still say, in hindsight, that the senior direction of the force was as impartial and full of integrity as Scarman’s bold and decisive language would have us believe?

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_Office

[4] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/investigation-into-links-between-special-demonstration-squad-and-home-office “When funding ceased in 1989, no accountability was required until the SDS closed in 2008 and no significant evidence was identified of any links to the Home Office throughout this period. Outside of the annual reviews there is very little evidence to support any Home Office knowledge of the SDS and in particular no evidence was identified of any influence in operational activities.”

[5] http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05z0tp0 it is curious, but not unexpected, to see a major UK news institution The BBC do a programme on a pillar of the establishment. However, this is not surprising. The overall focus is rather light on criticism and more on presenting a positive and reassuring message of hard working police. The episodes do not explore senior officer decision making on difficult cases such as Daniel Morgan Murder, Operation Tiberius or general Internal Affairs concerns. Instead, the show focused on frontline policing issues, which provide reassurance to the public, with only a minimal focus on midlevel decision making and no analysis of senior officer decisions.

[6] Corrupt means the normal or healthy society or organization has decayed. In this case, the police force was pursuing what it considered the public interest, which was its self-interest. In the latter operations against victims’ families, the police are acting in their self-interest in a way that undermines the public interest in a police force that acts with integrity and probity. Their organizational interest had been placed before the public interest and in conflict with the public interest. The organization is not corrupt for its pursuit of its own interests; it is that those interests were illegitimate. When that occurs, the police become corrupt. http://press.anu.edu.au/apps/bookworm/view/Corruption%3A+Expanding+the+focus/9901/ch02.html

[7] https://www.csa-inquiry.independent.gov.uk/

[8] On the issue of elected politicians under surveillance see: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/mar/25/police-spied-on-labour-mps-whistleblower

For more on the police surveillance capacity see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Public_Order_Intelligence_Unit For a report on the review of that unit in 2010 see https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic/our-work/review-of-the-national-public-order-intelligence-unit-npoiu/

Posted in corruption, public opinion, republicanism, statesmanship, surveillance | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Child Sexual Abuse: A consequence of an imperial system?

The Rhodes Colossus: Caricature of Cecil John ...

The Rhodes Colossus: Caricature of Cecil John Rhodes, after he announced plans for a telegraph line and railroad from Cape Town to Cairo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The long awaited inquiry into historical child sexual abuse has started. The Goddard Inquiry (Hereafter the Inquiry) will examine the extent to which institutions and organizations in England and Wales failed to protect children from Child Sexual Abuse (hereafter CSA). After years of stories, investigations, and some convictions, the issue is finally being addressed. Although many events led up to the Inquiry, the attention from Tom Watson’s claim that a powerful paedophile ring had operated in Westminster was decisive.[1] In response, the government commissioned the Inquiry. It will investigate how public authorities failed to protect children from CSA. The approach appears thorough in what it covers. However, it is not complete. What the Inquiry lacks is work to place the public institutions and individuals, in particular the allegations of the powerful pedophile predators, into a wider social and political context. Without this context, it will fail.

Only a societal context lets us understand individual predators and institutional failures.

What the Inquiry has to do is place the abuse and the institutional failures into a historical context. The institutions acted within a wider political and societal context. The context will help us understand why they acted as they did. Without the wider context, the Inquiry will never be able to explain the institutional behavior. The institutional behavior is more than the desire to hide scandals. Instead, the institutional behavior relates to the individual behavior. The inquiry hinges on the relationship between the individual level (the victims and their abusers) and the institutional level (those which failed to protect the victims and confront the powerful). In some cases, the individual and the institutional level intersect. Abusers, enablers, and protectors often worked in institutions. How they operated and why organizations failed to deal with them is an important part of the inquiry. In some cases, individuals, through intent or incompetence, thwarted institutional attempts to investigate or punish CSA by powerful pedophile predators. Yet, these two levels only tell part of the story. Therefore, the wider story has to include the wider political context. In this case, it has to include the nature of the regime.

A regime founded on an abuse of power will perpetuate abuse.

The United Kingdom’s political regime, its imperial structure covered with a democratic veneer to maintain its authority, is the wider context. The Inquiry has to understand this context even if it will not explore it. Without this context, we cannot understand the institutional or individual behavior. The regime’s founding influences how it works.[2] In turn, the public authorities will have been shaped by the political culture that shaped their response to CSA. The public are right to be worried about the politically powerful who abused their power, position and privileges, to exploit children. To understand those powerful abusers as well as the public institutions, we have to look at the context. We have to understand that the regime gave them their power and status. We need to understand how it gave them power. At a basic level, it gave them honours and celebrated their public work.

What the abuser does to an individual, a regime does to a people. 

At its core, Child Sexual Abuse is an abuse of power.[3] The abuse comes from stark physical inequality between a man and a child.[4] The child does not and cannot consent to the violence he suffers. The man uses his power, either physical, emotional or economic to abuse the child. In many cases, the man uses his position, a power in itself, to gain access to vulnerable children. The vulnerable children, often wards of the state nominally under the Crown’s care, were in no position to resist and no one was likely to defend them. Even if someone wanted to defend them, or the child resisted, who would believe them against someone with power and position? The abuser’s status gave them power. From that power, they were able to exploit the children and bully those who might object. We see figures such as Jimmy Savile or Cyril Smith who appeared beyond the law[5] and received public honors or political office. The public honours and offices gave them status and power. In turn, t suggested that the system endorsed them. What child would say no to Jimmy and Cyril? What institution said no to them? The children and the organizations were conditioned by the regime to defer to their power, status and privileges.[6] However, we need to move beyond the individual level or the institutional level to the regime level.

The regime broadly understood is

“[T]he order, the form, which gives society its character. Regime is therefore a specific manner of life. Regime is the form of life as living together, the manner of living of society and in society, since this manner depends decisively on the predominance of human beings of a certain type, on the manifest domination of society by human beings of a certain type. Regime means, the whole, which we today are in the habit of viewing primarily in a fragmentized form: regime means simultaneously the form of life of a society, its style of life, its moral taste, form of society, form of state, form of government, spirit of laws.”

A regime founded in an abuse of power will nurture that character in its elites.

All imperial systems are founded in an abuse of power. From that founding, they perpetuate an inequality as they rule. They rule by power and not consent. They are above the law as they make the laws. In this behavior, they follow the ancient law that the strong rule the weak.[7] Over time, they may take on a democratic veneer to make the regime acceptable and provide a sense of popular legitimacy. However, despite these efforts, the ruled have no say in who rules them. At all times, the rulers benefit from the inherent inequality. As Thucydides said of Imperial Athens, the strong do as they will and the weak suffer what they must. When a political system is founded on coercion and not consent, it influences all political relationships. For example, we know that the United Kingdom relied on slavery and the wealth it created to sustain its empire. In effect, the British Empire in its early days was a slave empire.[8] Even if a democratic veneer may gradually soften that explicit rule, it remains implicit throughout the regime so long as the Monarchy remains. We can see this continuing influence in various institutions such as the military and the schools, which shape the character of citizens where a bully culture was common and encouraged to maintain discipline. Even with the common law as a potential constraint on power, the people had no organized ability to resist as the instruments of power, the police, military, and the Crown controlled courts. The institutions that wield political and military swear an oath to the Queen. They do not swear an oath to the State or to the Crown. They do not swear an oath to Parliament, the People, or a constitution. There is no popular sovereignty. At its root, the regime remains in place through force of arms not from popular consent expressed through a democratic process. For example, the Army takes an oath to obey the Queen and no one else. Their oath is the most explicit about obedience as they swear to defend her from all enemies and they will obey all of her orders.[9] The armed forces maintain her on the throne. She does not rule by consent nor is she elected.[10] However, the issue is not with the Queen as a person, it is with what she represents and creates—the regime.

The Monarchy shapes the Crown and the Crown shapes the regime. Although the Crown no longer relies as much on the Royal Household, as it did in the past, the Household still remains a powerful actor. Consider that if the 2015 election, or any election, had led to a hung parliament, one of the Queen’s courtiers, would play an active role in the process to form a new government.[11] In that indirect role, and many others, it sets the public tone to which the great and the good aspire. Even though the Monarchy’s direct power is much reduced, it wields extensive indirect power. The various parties and events create a social network that people, especially the powerful and preeminent, aspire to attend. In the same way, the honours system, despite its reforms, remains something that shape the regime. The powerful, protected and even the humble pursue these honours with great effort. Many will deform themselves to obtain one. Although nominally in reward for public service or service to the Crown and in turn the public, they serve another purpose. The honours reflect a system that inculcates people to seek the Monarchy’s approval. The powerful minority, the elite, that schools such as Eton and Oxford educate, pursue and receive these honours. These institutions are still shaped by the regime’s founding in an abuse of power. The views on slavery influenced popular education and this would, in turn, influence the way children were raised. Especially among the elite, who were shaped by the regime, it would encourage and normalize a bully culture where power came with privileges. Even the democratic veneer does not disguise this power nor does it displace or discourage those ambitious and talented few outside the Establishment from the effort to obtain them.[12] Athens ancient law’s truth can be seen in the behavior of those who once served the public quickly become Lords and Ladies keen to exercise their power and status. Moreover, the Leveson Inquiry revealed, the tabloid media culture reinforces the general bullying culture through their own behavior of “monstering”.[13] Where we would expect the media to resist the inequality and defend the public from such predators, the tabloid media enjoyed, in particular the News of the World, being a bully and punishing those they did not like.[14]

The Crown’s power and the political inequality it perpetuates show us regime’s nature. This nature provides the context for the institutional CSA and most importantly the politically powerful paedophiles. The CSA show us just how far the strong rule the weak. Even with a democratic veneer, the inequality remains. It is a permanent feature in UK culture as no one is the Queen’s equal. The inequality is sustained by the implicit, and sometimes, explicit threat of violence that sustains the regime. Until we understand the regime and the Crown’s role, we will not understand the institutional context.

When we look at the regime, though, we face the Inquiry’s most challenging question. How will the Inquiry examine the Royal Household?[15] Despite Parliament’s claims to supremacy and sovereignty[16], as well as the Lord Chancellor’s claim that the Rule of Law exists; the Monarchy reminds us who rules.

Where power begins, the laws stop and justice disappears. The Inquiry’s success will depend on its ability to bring the Royal Household within its scope and bring the regime into focus.


[1] Tom Watson raised the issue in parliament in 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20067409  (accessed 12 April 2015) These concerns reflected issues that had been raised in the early 1980s and continued on to the Jimmy Savile case emerged. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-28195580

[2] A regime founded in the belief in the divine right of kings   will inculcate a view of the relationship between rules and ruled is between superiors and inferiors. Moreover, the superiors will have divinely sanctioned rights against the inferiors. To understand this we only need to modify and paraphrase Thomas Jefferson’s famous statement on the issue. “The mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor [with] a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god.” http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/jefferson/214.html On the issue of the divine right of kings in UK society consider its influence on the regime. http://www.royal.gov.uk/MonarchUK/HowtheMonarchyworks/History%20and%20background.aspx “In the seventeenth century, the Stuart kings propagated the theory of the divine right of kings, claiming that the Sovereign was subject only to God and not to the law.”  In time this stark view was relinquished, however, the residual elements, the Royal Prerogative remains. The Prerogative exists simply because of the nature of the Royal Person.

[3] Child Sexual Abuse and Power Author(s): Stephen J. Rossetti Source: The Furrow, Vol. 46, No. 12 (Dec., 1995), pp. 684-688 http://www.jstor.org/stable/27663058

[4] We have to remember that women can be abusers. In the cases brought to trial or made public the perpetrators have been mainly men and the women only played a smaller role, usually as enablers of or protectors of the male abusers.

[5]  http://www.channel4.com/news/cyril-smith-child-abuse-mi5-rochdale-elm (accessed 6 April 2015) The Channel 4 programme claims that they have evidence to indicate that Special Branch had a file containing the evidence of Cyril Smith’s crimes even though he was never arrested or charged with them.


[6] See for example Cyril Smith’s bullying of the police over their investigation. http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/revealed-sir-cyril-smiths-bullying-1744842

[7] According to the Ancient Athenians this was the law of nature. The strong rule the weak. (Melian Dialogue Thucydides 5.89 ) http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0200%3Abook%3D5%3Achapter%3D89

[8][8] On the history of the UK slave trade and the wealth it created see: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/british-transatlantic-slave-trade-records/#2-essential-information and http://www.newstatesman.com/economics/2014/04/much-britains-wealth-built-slavery-so-why-shouldnt-it-pay-reparations and http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/how-african-slaves-created-prosperous-new-britain

[9]“ I swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors and that I will as in duty bound honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, her heirs and successors in person, crown and dignity against all enemies and will observe and obey all orders of Her Majesty, her heirs and successors and of the generals and officers set over me.” http://www.whodareswins.com/british-army-oath-of-allegiance.html

[10] See Xenophon’s Memorabilia. Book I 2.41-46. If a regime rules without consent it is tyrannical. The UK citizens have not consented to have the Queen as their ruler and they must accept the next ruler as they have no choice, they have no consent in the matter. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0208%3Abook%3D1%3Achapter%3D2%3Asection%3D41

[11] http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/feb/14/queen-power-hung-parliament See also http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/feb/14/queen-power-hung-parliament Even if the Queen wants to stay out of the politics, she has a constitutional role, a powerful role to shape the outcome. http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/Politics/article1545963.ece and http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/mar/06/not-out-of-it-but-above-it-queen-royal-retreat-hung-parliament Moreover, the more she must be kept out politics the more it suggests her power and her indirect role. To put it directly, the 1688 revolution is far from complete and Parliament is less supreme than it would like to believe.

[12] If you have talent the regime will co-opt you with honours and bestow other advantages. In these efforts, they defuse any potential resentment and harness talent and ambition. Aristotle noted this 2500 years ago when he explain how aristocracies stay in power.

1308a Further one should see that no only some aristocracies but even some oligarchies last, not because the regimes are stable, but because those occupying the offices treat well those outside the regime as well as those in the governing body —those who do not have a share, by not acting unjustly toward them and by bring into the regime those among them who have the mark of leaders, not acting unjustly toward the ambitious by depriving them of prerogatives or toward the many with regard to profit; and themselves and those who do have a share, by treating one another in a popular spirit.”

[13] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/media/murdochs-scandal/what-its-like-to-get-monstered-by-a-murdoch-tabloid/

[14] http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/media/2012/03/5557167/monstering-when-murdoch-tabloid-publishes-pictures-you-your-underwear- One has to wonder whether the same external bullying was occurring within the company. Consider that its then editor, Andy Coulson, was named in a tribunal case in which the News of the World had to pay out nearly £800000.  “[A] tribunal ordered the News of the World to pay Driscoll, 41, £792,736 in compensation for being the victim of “a consistent pattern of bullying behaviour” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/press/the-reporter-who-took-on-the-news-of-the-world-and-won-1830378.html   see also http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/mar/13/andy-coulson-bullying-boss-news-world-clive-goodman  If readers are interested, Mr. Coulson denies he is a bully. He claimed the Tribunal was unfair in its judgement. His witness statement can be read here: http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Witness-Statement-of-Andy-Coulson.pdf  The Tribunal judgement can be read here: http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Exhibit-1-to-M-Driscoll.pdf   The salient paragraphs are paragraphs 106 and 116 and 130 and 141. What is particularly intriguing is that Mr. Coulson focuses on his emails and avoid discussing the culture of the management team he directed. In particular, on that issue, readers will want to read paragraphs 190.3-190.9.  As to the more subtle aspects of bullying which this incident suggests, consider this analysis http://www.human-law.co.uk/Blog/2009/11/How-much-bullying-took-place-in-this-case-involving-Mark-Driscoll-and-Andy-Coulson/ For an insight into the News of the World culture, the Tribunal provides an insight with reference to the way the company responded to the claimant’s mental illness.  On this issue see paragraphs 198.1-198.4. Suffice to say the Tribunal did not find they were either sympathetic or understanding. In particular, even after the claimant’s claims were proven true which was the basis for the second disciplinary warning, they refused to accept it. (198.2)

[15] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1066171/Buckingham-Palace-butler-ran-paedophile-sex-ring-working-Royal-Family.html The initial oversight of the Royal Household appears to have been addressed. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article4493228.ece

[16] See Lord Neuberger speech. He explains that Parliament, which is part of the Crown, makes the laws so it is only accountable to itself not the people to whom it does not owe its allegiance. As Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury explains Parliament is only bound by its will nothing else because of its prerogative powers. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20131202164909/http://judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Speeches/mr-speech-weedon-lecture-110406.pdf (accessed 22 March 2015) See paragraphs 19-31.

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Can the Goddard Inquiry succeed when civil servants hide the secrets?

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, also known as the Goddard Inquiry, has started in the UK.[1] This long overdue Inquiry will

“investigate whether public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales.”

For the Inquiry to succeed it has to examine the records held by public authorities that contain reference to child sexual abuse and allegations of child sexual abuse. To make sure records were available; the Home Secretary issued a moratorium on records destruction.[2] The Inquiry’s chair wrote to all public authorities to advise them about what they needed to keep and what they could destroy.

The 21st century version of arcana imperii is alive and well in the UK civil service

What the Inquiry confronts, though, is the problem of arcana imperii.[3] In all imperial systems, and the UK remains an imperial system ruled by a monarchy, arcana imperii refers to the secret knowledge that is used to gain and wield power. In ancient Rome, where Tacitus coined the term, those who were in power held it by force of arms and the access and use of hidden knowledge. The hidden knowledge was called tacenda, which means knowledge that was not to be mentioned or made public. These are things better left unsaid, implied, or inferred. In brief, knowledge about child sexual abuse would be tacenda. When it is used to wield power or influence, it becomes arcana imperii.[4]

Arbitrary power exercised by unaccountable civil servants

We know that James I used such information and understood the term to describe his rule. The King has access to secret or hidden knowledge that enables him to rule.[5] The UK civil servants continue the tradition today. They know the hidden information by which the Crown rules. Today civil servants like the “Director-General, Propriety and Ethics Team” exercise this power. They have a special role in the decision to award honours. They keep few records and do most of their work by telephone or in person. Even when there are emails, they are deleted from the system so that they cannot be requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Even though the emails and documents are public records, they destroy them to keep them from the public. They flout the laws about public records either to retain it or to allow access to it.

The Goddard Inquiry will stumble on the historical behaviour of civil servants who hid the secrets

If the Goddard Inquiry is going to fail and the victims of child sexual abuse, it will be because of the culture and ethos that encourages the behavior by civil servants like the “Director-General, Propriety and Ethics Team”.  What will surprise you, though, is that this post is responsible for the highest standards of propriety in government and civil service.

“The purpose of the role is to ensure the highest standards of propriety, integrity and governance within government.”[6]

According to the BBC article, they regularly and routinely violate the standards. All public officials are to follow the Nolan Principles. These principles are the standard by which all public officials are to be judged.[7] What we find is the central principle, principle four, is Accountability.

“Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.”

Is such behavior accountable? No. It also contravenes another principle, the fifth principle, Openness.

“Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.”

Is such behaviour open? No. When a public official destroys records, flouts the FOI law, and refuses to account for their actions, they demonstrate neither Accountability nor Openness. Why is the person responsible for the highest standards, the one who flouts them the most? They violates the standards and the laws consistently. They are unaccountable to anyone but themselves. They insult the public, pervert the law, and betray the democratic trust. Who would condone such unethical behavior? Apparently, that is how the UK government works.

Move along, there is nothing to see here

On the surface, this article and their behavior may appear a small matter, a spat between a reporter and a civil servant. It is just another government official, like Michael Gove, who does not want to be accountable. They flout a law that annoys them and they ignore the Nolan Principles. We can see the common refrain, especially from the media, “Really, we need to focus on the bad stuff like murders, terrorists and other criminals and stop harassing powerful civil servant who have no time for such petty things as FOIA or the Nolan Principles.” Perhaps, in a previous age we might have.

What happened to Civil Service integrity? The shadow that haunts the Goddard Inquiry.

With the Goddard Inquiry, we should expect that such behavior would be condemned and stopped. Can the UK continue to have a civil service with the ethos this behavior reveals and the morality of such decisions? We see the same behavior in Rotherham Council. If such behavior continues, it will undermine the Goddard Inquiry. The Inquiry requires records are kept, decisions recorded, and public officials be accountable. In particular, the Inquiry has asked for any information held by public authorities about honours.

g. Any material relating to the determination of the award of Honours to persons who are now demonstrated to have had a sexual interest in children or are suspected of having had such an interest.

The Inquiry has written to the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood to ask for such information.[8] Except they are unlikely to find very much. The “Director-General, Propriety and Ethics Team” who makes the decisions on honours deletes and destroys the records. They will have erased the public memory. Neither they nor the person involved can be held to account. By their own hand, they have ensured the victims of the historical sexual abuse will be denied evidence. They will be denied justice.

As Chris Cook writes

“We also know, via the Freedom of Information Act, that she kept no log of why, how or when she destroys documents (contrary to that guidance)”

In the 21st century, we can see the Arcana Imperii at work. We now can see the way in which hidden knowledge is used to wield power behind the scenes, influence people, thwart the public will, and flout the law. The UK public has to ask, “What kind of regime allows someone to breach public standards so consistently, so blatantly, and so often?” We would expect such behavior in regimes like Stalin’s Russia, or Mao’s China or even Hitler’s Germany, but not in the UK. Yet, here we see the same imperial behavior continues. We see a regime that tolerates and promotes behavior to avoid accountability. They are not accountable to the law or the public.[9]

A regime that puts secrets before the truth puts privilege and power before the weak and vulnerable

What we find is a regime in which secrecy comes before accountability, where the Crown comes before the children, lies before truth[10], and power decides what is right. A decent person would recoil from such behavior. Perhaps, we find a regime that attracts person of a moral character who embraces such behaviour and flourishes. What we need to know is whether civil servants will be required to testify before the Goddard Inquiry for their past behaviour? If not, why not? Does the rule of law stop at the Cabinet Office’s doorstep?

[1] https://www.csa-inquiry.independent.gov.uk/

[2] https://www.csa-inquiry.independent.gov.uk/news/chair-of-the-inquiry-issues-guidance-on-destruction-of-documents

[3] https://lawrenceserewicz.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/official-secrets-act-and-child-sexual-abuse-inquiry-arcana-imperii-and-the-secrets-of-state/

[4] ARCANUS IN TACITUS Author(s): Herbert W. Benario Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, Neue Folge, 106. Bd., 4. H. (1963), pp. 356-362 J.D. Sauerländers Verlag http://www.jstor.org/stable/41244204

P360 “Here we have one of the keys to power, the ability – and the need – to conceal what is necessary from the general eye. The value of arcana is exclusively political here; what is referred to must be tacenda.”

Tacenda means things not to be mentioned or made public—things better left unsaid; tacit means “unspoken, silent” or “implied, inferred.” http://www.thefreedictionary.com/tacenda  (accessed 7 April 2015)

[5] For more on the term and its use, see Ernst H. Kantowicz, Mysteries of State: An Absolutist Concept and Its Late Mediaeval Origins The Harvard Theological Review Vol. 48, No. 1 (Jan., 1955), pp. 65-91

[6] https://www.gov.uk/government/people/sue-gray

[7] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-7-principles-of-public-life

[8] https://www.csa-inquiry.independent.gov.uk/sites/default/files/letter-to-sir-jeremy-heywood.pdf


[9] Contrast this behavior with J. William Leonard who worked to ensure public officials were accountable and refused to allow records that described illegal behavior such as torture to be classified to hide them. Perhaps UK civil servants could demonstrate such integrity in the face of power. http://www.newsweek.com/archivist-challenges-cheney-95115 For more detail on J. William Leonard’s work and how a bureaucrat with integrity can hold a government to account see http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1081328 especially pages 1204-1209.

[10] “When I first requested a copy of this email back in 2011, the Cabinet Office insisted that it did not exist. The advice had only been given over the telephone, I was told. It was only in the course of a legal case (involving me, when I was a reporter at the Financial Times) in 2012 that the Department for Education revealed that it existed and it had kept a copy. The DfE revealed that the Cabinet Office had told an untruth.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33431580

Posted in censorship, corruption, FOIA, Government | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Oaths that define a political regime

English: Dutch Students had to sign an agreeme...

English: Dutch Students had to sign an agreement that would prove their loyalty to Nazi Germany. Nederlands: Studenten moesten beloven dat ze zich zouden ‘onthouden van iedere tegen het Duitse Rijk enzovoort gerichte handeling’. Deze belofte moest schriftelijk worden gedaan, door een ‘loyaliteitsverklaring’ te tekenen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All regimes have loyalty oaths for citizens and those who work for the regime. These oaths are important political symbols as they explain what the regime holds most dear. They explain clearly the basis for obedience. Such obedience is beyond simply obeying the law of the land, which is considered the basic political obligation for anyone within that community even if they are a stranger. Therefore, it would reveal much about the regime if we know what these oaths contain and compare them to oaths in other regimes. Two such regimes are the UK regime and the Nazi regime. Winston Churchill described the British Monarchy as a benign kingdom that faced the sinister Nazi tyranny of darkness. A tyrant ruled Nazi Germany, a perverted form of kingship with a defective title to rule, in contrast to the legitimate king with a valid title, who ruled the British Empire.

Title to rule or title to tyranny?

Today, the Nazi regime is a distant memory and the word tyranny is reduced to a political term that describes any regime liberal democrats dislike. Yet, tyranny, as an idea that defines a king without a valid title to rule, remains. A valid title to rule is important to encourage obedience, obligation, and loyalty. These symbols are what a regime uses to remind people of their common identity. Even public events become symbols to remind the people of their duty. The basic public symbol is a loyalty oath. The oaths set their speakers apart from the average person. It demonstrates they have a different, higher, relationship with the ruler. However, in this relationship, the oath creates an inequality within the regime between the average citizen and those bound by the oath. The oath takers become the ruler’s agent through the institutions and practices they serve.

The two regimes, the UK and Nazi Germany are different in many ways. What connects, though, is their oaths. We begin with the Nazi Germany oaths and compare them the UK oaths to understand how each sets out what they expect of the oath taker. Through the comparison, we see how tyranny and kingship relate to the rule of law and a constitutional order. Moreover, they also help us to understand how the oath, by creating a systemic inequality, can encourage political or institutional corruption. The oath takers privilege their personal relationship with the ruler over their civic loyalty to the common good.

Oaths from Nazi Germany

We start at the top as it sets the tone for the regime. Hitler saw himself as independent of the regime. He stood above it as the source of its legitimacy. He demonstrated this by not swearing an oath to the constitution, the highest law of the land. (All the oaths are taken from Franz Neumann’s book Behemoth: The structure and Practice of National Socialism London Victor Gollancz 1942, P.74)

Hitler was independent of all other institutions, so that he has not had to (and did not) swear the constitutional oath to parliament, as required by Article 42 of the constitution.

What this suggests, as was confirmed by the war, was that Hitler as the Fuhrer saw himself as the source of the law. His will determined the law and the nation’s fate. Heidegger explained this in his lectures and speeches.

In the UK, a written constitution that rules over all does not exist. The Queen does not swear an oath to the law or to the constitution. As the source of the law, she is above the law.[1] Her Coronation Oath, by which she demonstrates she has assumed the throne, does not contain a promise to be ruled by the law. She does claim, perhaps for appearances, to respect the laws and voluntarily obeys them.

Archbishop. Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon, and of your Possessions and the other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?

Queen. I solemnly promise so to do.

Archbishop. Will you to your power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all your judgements?

Queen. I Will.

A king is considered valid if they rule over willing subjects according to the laws. Yet, this definition raises two immediate issues. First, how do we know if the subjects are willing if they have not consent to the monarch? Can a person consent to a monarch? Moreover, is such consent tacit at best given that all the organs of power, the army, police, judges, and MPs swear an oath to the Monarch? The idea that a monarch rules according to the laws raises the question of the source of the laws and who makes them. The people do not make the laws, which would be the basis of a democratic system, as the Crown’s representatives make them. Parliament is part of the Crown and the Crown rules the people. The people do not rule the Crown. A democracy where the people rule and are ruled in turn does not exist. No one rules the Queen or the Crown.

Military Oaths

The military defend the Queen from all enemies. They do not swear an oath to Parliament or to the Law. We can see similarities between the military oaths.

The Nazi oath for military

“On the day of Hindenburg’s death every member of the army had to take the following oath

“I swear this holy oath to God: that I shall give unconditional obedience to Adolph Hitler, Leader of the Reich and the people, supreme commander of the army, and that as a brave soldier, I shall be ready to risk my life at any time for this oath.”

The UK army swears the following oath to the Queen.

“I swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will, as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, in Person, Crown and Dignity against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, and of the generals and officers set over me.”[2]

The Navy do not swear an oath, as they are the Queen’s own. They exist by the Queen’s prerogative and therefore do not need to swear an oath of allegiance.[3]

Both oaths require the soldiers to swear obedience before God. The Nazi regime explicitly indicates they must risk their life for the oath, which requires unquestioned obedience to Adolph Hitler. The same personal loyalty occurs in the UK oath. There the soldiers will defend the Queen from all enemies. The Queen need but indicate the enemies and the oath indicates that they are to defend her from it. Officers and generals who will give the soldiers orders require the same oath. Parliament has no role in this process. Parliament gives no orders and commands no obedience. The law is not mentioned in either oath.

Political Oaths

Cabinet Ministers, which we can consider similar to MPs, swore the following oath.

Cabinet members have to swear as follows: “I swear that I shall be faithful and obedient to Adolph Hitler, the Leader of the German Reich and people, that I shall give my strength to the welfare of the German people, obey the laws, and conscientiously fulfil my duties, so help me God. (Statute of 16 October 1934)

The UK MPs swear an oath to the Queen. If they do not wish to swear an oath, they can make an attestation. The text of these is as follows.

“I…swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.”

The text of the affirmation is: – “I…do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors according to law”.

Under Hitler, the politicians agreed to obey the law and to obey Hitler. By contrast, the UK politicians agree to allegiance to the Queen according to the law. They do not make an explicit statement to obey the law. As mentioned above, there is an important difference between ruling or living according to the law and being ruled by and obeying the law.

The third area, the civil service shares some similarity to the police and judicial oaths within the UK.

The civil service oath

The German civil service had an oath of obedience. A similar oath does not appear to exist in the UK so the nearest equivalent is either the Police oath or the judicial oath. The Judiciary swears two oaths. The first is allegiance to the Queen. The second is the judicial oath.

Here is the German civil service oath.

“I swear that I shall be true and obedient to Adolph Hitler, the Leader of the German Reich and the people, that I shall obey the laws and fulfil my official duties conscientiously, so help me God”. (Section 4 of the Civil Service Act 26 January 1937.)

Even though the Queen is now limited by the law and by parliament, as prerogative power has slowly been scaled back and checked by the rule of law, it remains above or beyond the law. Moreover, prerogative power still exists. The government uses it as the Queen does not use it personally. Unlike the German system, the UK system does not invest power in one person. Instead, we see that the power has been diffused across the Monarchy, Parliament, House of Lords and the Church. In an important sense, this diffused power structure was what the UK relied on to resist Hitler’s assault. At the same time, it also showed the structural weakness to the Nazi system relying on the Fuhrer’s will and allowing no basis for succession.

The UK police oath and the judges’ oath are worth comparing.

Form of Declaration

’I………………..of………………..do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against people and property; and that while I continue to hold the said office I will, to the best of my skill and knowledge, discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law.’”[4]

Oath of allegiance for judges

“I, _________ , do swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to law.”

Judicial oath

“I, _________ , do swear by Almighty God that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth the Second in the office of ________ , and I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.”

What do the Oaths tell us?

Both sets of oath swear allegiance to one person. The oath range from extreme, the military, to mild, civil servants. The UK oaths focus on allegiance while the Nazi oaths relied on obedience. Only the Nazi Civil Servants oath swears to obey the laws. In such a system, where the Fuhrer’s will makes the laws, one has to wonder if that holds any hope that the rule of law, which would restrain the Fuhrer’s will or the UK’s prerogative powers, would exist.

What is clear, though, is that the validity of the rule is in question for both. What the UK does have is the weight of tradition and the culture of obedience. Hitler tried to emulate such a culture in a perverted way. In the UK, power is diffused and continues to diffuse. The people, though, do not have a role in that process nor have they a role in the government. To the extent that power is diffused across the Crown, the UK looks less like the German system. Hitler was clearly a tyrant in his desire to central power in his person. However, the UK monarchy, as do all monarchies, has tyranny as a shadow as power seeks a focus. The Monarch may not be as active as it was in the 16th century but the prerogative can find a willing recipient in the Prime Minister. An imperial system without an active monarchy will encourage the emergency of a replacement focus for the power.

How can oaths encourage corrupt practices?

The oath creates an inequality within regime. There are those who take an oath and are the Crown’s servant and there is everyone else. Unlike the rule of law, where everyone is equal before the law, the oath of allegiance creates a space beyond the law. The person puts their allegiance to the Queen first and by extension the Crown. In the UK the Crown, through the Monarch, rules. The people are not sovereign and they do not rule. They are ruled. The oaths distinguish clearly between those groups. How this becomes a corrupt practice is in the following way.

When a Crown agent, such as a police officer or a soldier violates the law, they are held to account by the Crown. The people, through their institutions, do not hold them to account. One Crown servant, the Judge holds another Crown servant, the soldier or police officer to account. Although they are supposed to act in the public interest, the courts will be influenced by a view that the public interest coincides with the Crown’s interest. This does not mean that the Crown always wins, far from it, instead it means the system has an inherent bias when the Crown is challenged through the courts. The Crown creates the laws that set the public interest’s limits. We can consider three cases to illustrate this point. The first case is the problem of deaths in custody, the second is justice for serving soldiers and the third is prerogative power.


Since 1969, no police officer has ever been convicted of a death in custody.[5] From 1998-2010 333 people died in police custody and no one was convicted of their death.[6] 1990-2014, in all forms of custody, 1515 people have died in custody. Despite trials, no one has ever been convicted of causing those deaths despite enough evidence to bring many cases to trial. The record suggests that the Crown does not hold itself to account very well. The issue reflects police power, the physical power over a vulnerable person, (is there anyone more vulnerable than a person in restraints?) that leads to a death. However, when someone dies it is not always through an act, it can occur from a failure to act. In both cases, though, the Crown fails in its duty of care to the most vulnerable.

The oath sets the police apart from the public. They inhabit an office that is firstly loyal to the Queen. Through their status and exclusivity, they bond with other post holders. Their oath identifies them and reinforces the distance between someone inside the force and outside of it. As such, the loyalty that the oath encourages can lead the officer to place their institutional loyalty before the public.


The second issue relates to the cases where serving soldiers receive less severe sentences. In this situation, the Crown’s interest in the soldiers exceeds the public interest in justice for the victims. Although they have received a sentence, they escape a more severe sentence because of their status as Crown servants. To be sure, in all situations, the Crown will consider a person’s character and societal role when they judge them; yet, these perpetrators are set apart by their status as Crown Servants.[7] To the extent that they receive a preferential service, they stand apart and the public take a back seat.

Prerogative power.

The Crown, through its servants, can exercise prerogative power beyond the rule of law. The Queen commands the military. Although she goes to war under the advice of ministers, that prerogative right is not subject to the rule of law. However, this example is the most extreme. What we find is that Ministers exercise the prerogative power on a regular basis on less serious issues. Their position as a Crown Servant, not as a democratically elected official, provides their position to exercise prerogative power. Consider the way in which another Crown Servant, the Queen’s Private Secretary, exercises prerogative power in the case of a hung parliament.


Nazi Germany was clearly a tyranny. The UK Monarchs have done much to create a legitimate title to rule and to rule according to the laws. They sustain their rule when they protect the public, maintain the public peace, ensure the public prosperity and protect the vulnerable from those with a predatory nature. However, the prerogative powers and the Queen’s status sustain the system; Parliament and a Supreme Court have yet to replace the Monarchy. The prerogative system remains vulnerable to abuse. Even if we want to believe the Crown has less prerogative power than previously, the oaths and their institutional context remain to remind us.

Some might say that the oaths are unimportant and a relic of a bygone age. If the oaths were unimportant, why do we have them? If we do have them, they must mean something. If they mean nothing and are considered a relic, why does Parliament refuse to seat anyone who will not take the oath? Would the military, the SAS, the SBS, and the Royal Marines consider such oaths meaningless and empty words? Do these men and women consider loyalty an empty word? If they do, we should pause a moment and consider that without the oath, the difference between a soldier and a mercenary begins to disappear. Yet, we are reminded that there are ways to obtain political loyalty and obligation beyond oaths. A system based on consent is possible. The question is whether the UK is ready to change its constitutional system from an imperial one based on loyalty and obedience oaths to one based on consent and the rule of law.



[1] http://www.royal.gov.uk/MonarchUK/TheMonarchyToday.aspx

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oath_of_Allegiance_%28United_Kingdom%29#Armed_forces  (accessed 31 December 2014)

[3] http://www.royal.gov.uk/MonarchUK/ArmedForces/QueenandtheArmedForces.aspx (accessed 31 December 2014)

[4] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2002/30 section 83 Attestation of Constables

[5] https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/deaths-in-british-police-custody-no-convicted-officers-since-1969

[6] http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/dec/03/deaths-police-custody-officers-convicted

[7] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-32449872 and http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Soldiers-punched-student-avoid-jail/story-22455393-detail/story.html

Posted in Government, justice, statesmanship | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Libertarianism’s hidden shadow: Tyranny

English: Title page of the first printing of t...

English: Title page of the first printing of the Federalist Papers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For most people the word libertarian makes them think of liberty. Libertarians want to ensure individual freedom. At the same time, people will seek libertarianism as opposed to tyranny. Despite the surface belief, I argue that it hides a tyrannical soul. By tyrannical soul, I mean it contains the idea of tyranny. Tyranny is understood here as the political practice of a subordinating all common goods to their own individual good. The tyrant rules the city so that it serves his interests. The tyrant is not concerned with the common good for its own sake. To the extent that he is concerned with the common good, it is for his own interests such as security. When libertarianism encourages the pursuit of individual liberty, it encourages it at the expense of the common good. In this pursuit, it discourages democratic beliefs that support the common good and encourages tyrannical beliefs that erode the common good. In this belief, libertarianism undermines the American idea.

Is libertarianism a perversion of the American idea?

America is the idea that a people could form a government by consent and intent and not through accident and fraud. The America idea is expressed through its constitution, where We, the People, created a new government. We note that the We, the people, was set against the King, an individual, who ruled them tyrannically. The Americans rejected that the individual would rule the people at the expense of common good. Instead, they created a government born of the common good and created a more perfect union. The common good succeeds to the extent that Americans can practice self-government. Self-government, though, is more than the pursuit of individual liberty, it requires that the individual participate in the public domain. For an individual to participate in the public domain, they have to sacrifice their own individual good for the common good, which is expressed in the 10th Amendment. The individual has a role in the government, which if shirked in the pursuit of individual liberty, impoverishes the public good. Far from being the threat to our liberty, government is what binds American together and makes Americans.

At seminal events, Americans have focused on the common good over their individual good. When Lincoln renewed America’s founding, he reminded us of that common good in the Gettysburg Address. He spoke of a government, of the people, by the people, and for the people. He did not talk of the individual or individual liberty. Instead, he spoke of self-government and whether men could design and consent to a government that was based on the idea of self-government. Individual liberty he explained was found in self-government that required that the individuals devote themselves to something larger and more important than their own interests. The Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address, refer to a res publica, a public thing that is held in common. Neither document puts individual liberty before the common good. They both are based on the idea that the common good is necessary for individual liberty.

Every Man a King destroys trust in self-government and nurtures tyranny

The American idea, as expressed by Lincoln and the Federalists, is based on an implicit trust in the government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Today, though, that trust is at a historic low corroded by an unremitting attack on government and the rule of law. The most vociferous critics have attacked the government in the name of liberty. In this attack, the critics encourage lawlessness and claim it is the only way to liberty. They forget that Americans believe that liberty develops from self-government and law abidingness that is America’s political religion. Those who attack the republic idea of government flatter the people with appeals to personal liberty. Their flattery masks tyrannical beliefs and behaviours. Throughout the ages demagogues have arisen who would flatter the people about their rights and freedoms and then impose a tyranny. America has known such demagogues who have touted individual liberty so that they could achieve their political aims. We recall Huey Long who proudly proclaimed that he would make Every Man a King. He would flatter everyone with the promise for their individual good at the expense of the common good. He promised tyranny for what is a king but a tyrant to an American in the name of liberty.

Flattery soon gives way to tyranny.

The founders feared demagogues who begin by flattery and end with tyranny.

It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual concomitant of love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust. On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants. (Federalist 1) [1]

Today, libertarian candidates would flatter Americans by defending their rights. Yet, their claims to subscribe to the founding fathers would require him to jettison his libertarianism. The Founding Fathers understood that an individual’s good, his liberty, depends on his ability to participate in the common good. Yet, that public activity relies on the bureaucratic state. The modern individual developed with the modern state. The individual requires a bureaucratic state infrastructure to act as an individual. Instead of the family or the tribe, the individual can act freely because a bureaucracy ensures the laws and government systems provide a safe and prosperous public domain. The individual does not have to enforce their own contracts or ensure their water is safe.

The individual destroys the common good, an eternal danger reborn by Rand Paul

As Socrates pointed out, the tyrannical life for non-philosophers is one in which the common goods are subordinated to one’s own individual good.[2] To the extent that a libertarian is concerned with the common good, it is only for their own good. They fear the loss of their own good more than they value the common good. Unlike Socrates who believes that his particular or individual good is derived from the universal good, the libertarian believes that the common good must serve the individual good as it comes before the common good. By contrast, the American founding is based on the idea of a universal good by which we judge any individual good. The individual good, according to the Federalist Papers, is found within the common good. Thus, we see the idea of a people creating a union; it is not individuals, as suggested by Thomas Hobbes in his Leviathan.

Libertarianism undermines the virtue by which soldiers serve the common good.

Our veterans understand their liberty requires devotion to a higher, common, good beyond their own good. We honour their service because they are patriots. A patriot loves his country and sacrifices their life for it. Their sacrifice, though, is not always death it can be their time, their health, and their opportunities. They do this for something that is more important than themselves for the highest common good the country.[3] To cheapen this sacrifice by equating it with libertarianism confuses sacrifice for selfishness. The patriot loves his country enough to sacrifice himself for it just as a parent would sacrifice their life for their family. Perhaps in the Libertarian America of Ayn Rand parents are to sacrifice their children for themselves. Our private good comes before the public good.

Can we recover the public life when we are told liberty depends on privacy?

If we pursue libertarianism to its logical conclusion, we would sacrifice the common good for the individual private good. We would embrace tyranny. Such individuals would seek a political leader who would deliver on that promise. Tyranny becomes viable as citizens forget the common good. We are encouraged to pursue privacy at the expense of our ability to participate in the public domain and share the common good. We relinquish our public right to democracy for the private pleasure of liberty. Privacy and libertarianism leads us away from the res publica, the public thing. Is this liberty or slavery to surrender the public domain and pursue private pleasures?

[1] http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed01.asp

[2] Harry Neumann, Socrates in Plato and Aristophanes: In Memory of Ludwig Edelstein (1902-1965) The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 90, No. 2 (Apr., 1969), pp. 201-214 http://www.jstor.org/stable/293427 Accessed: 22-05-2015

[3] Consider the famous saying by Hillel “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if not now, when? And if I am only for myself, what am I?”


Posted in censorship, corruption, education, Government, justice, public opinion, republicanism | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

A partial response to Snowden’s Precis: Are the Rich Getting Richer?

A portrait of Karl Marx.

A portrait of Karl Marx. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christopher Snowden has written an interesting article about poverty and prosperity in the United Kingdom.[1] (The article is in the Institute of Economic Affairs Magazine EA can be found here: ) He makes an impassioned argument that the poor have gotten wealthier and their income is better relative to the average despite the recession. The argument appears strong and incontrovertible on the surface. However, we have to look closely, but not too closely, to find its flaws. Despite those who would quote his article to great effect, it does not suggest that the anti-austerity marchers are wrong to march or to protest austerity.

The basic message to understand is that Snowden promotes income and wages as improving and the austerity campaigners argue against the cuts to government programs and benefits. To put it bluntly, they are comparing apples and oranges. What we need to do is look at Mr. Snowden’s article on its own merits. To do this, we need to read it closely to understand it.

Straw men rarely make an argument.

Mr. Snowden, like those who wish to make an ideological argument, start with straw man arguments

The general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Frances O’Grady, said last year that Britain is a country in which ‘inequality soars’ and ‘social mobility has hit reverse’.

The Guardian tells us that Britain is ‘Europe’s sweatshop’, a country where workers put in the longest hours in the EU.

And it is a perennial lament that ‘the rich get richer while the poor get poorer’.

To be sure, the headlines and selected speech quotations taken out of context sound interesting and create a good straw man to knock down. Except that as headlines and quotations taken out of context, they have no basis to test. Until we provide a standard to measure the statements against, that is the statements against their own logic, we cannot assess them.

What did Frances O’Grady’s statement say? Here is the exact quotation.

This brand of conservatism is the enemy of aspiration. As inequality soars, social mobility has hit reverse.[2]

That is it. It is a throwaway line, a claptrap, without any substance. We do not know what it meant. We can read into what we want. Like most political rhetoric, it is short on substance or logic and long on emotion.

If we take the regular lament “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer” at face value, it is always true relatively. If I earn a billion and you earn a billion this year, next year you earn a billion, and I earn a trillion. I am richer and you are poor than me relative to last year. Against an absolute average, we are both “richer” but my increase is larger than your increase so you are relatively poorer. It is a phrase that is empty of substance and that is filled by emotion.

Once you debunk their straw men you can provide your own

Mr. Snowden recognizes these as straw men statements and then provides his own.

Taken together, these assertions encourage a counsel of despair about the prospects of workers in the UK today, but they are all empirical claims and can be tested against the facts.

The two statements do not provide a counsel of despair. Neither the speakers nor the statements suggest despair. They may suggest unfairness; they do not counsel despair because they are rallying cries for change. The speakers want the situation to change. Despair means to give up and this is definitely not what the speakers or the statements encourage.

Make sure you mention Marx to show you are a capitalist

Mr. Snowden, like a good capitalist, has to say something bad about Marx. Why we have to invoke Marx each time we talk about inequality, I do not know. However, no discussion seems to be complete without him.

The well-worn assertion that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer echoes Karl Marx’s theory of immiseration which said that capitalists could only become richer by lowering wages, thereby reducing the living standards of workers until they had no choice but to revolt. Marx was wrong.

The idea sounds good except that the assertion does not echo Marx. Mr. Snowden has connected two ideas that are not connected. First, Marx never had a theory of immiseration. He did have a theory about revolution and he believed that as capital accumulates the worker would be worse off. This is not the same as saying, as the rich get richer the poor get poor. For it to be the same, it would have to say that as the rich get richer they make the poor get poorer by taking the money from the poor. Except that is not what Marx said. Here is what he said.

It follows therefore that in proportion as capital accumulates, the situation of the worker, be his payment high or low, must grow worse.

— Karl Marx, Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, 1867.[1]

Cf. Marx, Karl (2007): Capital: A Critique of Political Economy: The Process of Capitalist Production. Volume I, part 2. Cosimo Inc., pp. 708-709[3]

Second, the poor can be better off or worse off even as the rich get richer, and that is not same as saying that the capitalists only become rich by lowering wages. Again, this is not something that Marx said. Why Mr. Snowden wants to make up quotations is beyond me, but it seems a bit pointless to smear Marx with made up quotations.

Relative or Absolute poverty still means you are poor.

The straw man arguments continue.

Today, no one seriously argues that the poor are poorer than their Victorian counterparts, but some claim that they are poorer – and that there is more poverty – than twenty, thirty or forty years ago. It is not true.

I am not sure anyone has argued that the poor are poorer than in the Victorian era. The obvious infrastructural changes: universal health coverage, health and safety laws, improved access to education would disprove this statement. If it is manifestly and demonstrably wrong, why make the statement. However, Mr. Snowden finishes with the straw man arguments and moves to the statistics.

There has been a steady increase in wage rates for more than 150 years. Average earnings have risen more than four-fold since the start of the twentieth century despite two world wars and intermittent recessions.

Wages declined or stagnated in the mid-1970s, early 1990s and, above all, during the recent economic downturn: average earnings for full-time workers were 7.5 per cent lower in 2013 than they had been in 2009.

Initially (2009-11), the poorest 10 per cent – but not the poorest 2 per cent – saw a larger than average fall in wage rates, but this pattern was reversed in 2011 and 2013 when the richest decile saw their earnings fall by more than four per cent while the poorest decile saw earnings fall by less than two per cent.

Here the truth emerges but not as Mr. Snowden expected. What he wrote confirms that which he was arguing against. Initially the poor were getting poorer faster than the rich were and then they were getting poorer slower than the rich were. What this misses is that the poor were worse off than the rich were relatively and absolutely. In effect, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer relatively and absolutely.  The statistics paint a bleak picture.

Check the sources and you find the bias

The table is taken from the ONS report Equivalised¹ disposable household income, 1977-2012/13, UK (2012/13 prices²)[4]

Quintile groups of all households ranked by equivalised1 disposable income All
Bottom 2nd 3rd 4th Top holds
2006-07 11,014 17,916 24,551 34,036 63,650 30,233 0.364304 2.105315
2007-08 10,750 18,156 24,587 33,478 62,314 29,857 0.36005 2.087082
2008-09 11,021 17,835 24,344 33,558 62,355 29,823 0.369547 2.090836
2009-10 11,467 18,502 24,600 33,529 61,728 29,965 0.38268 2.060003
2010-11 11,510 18,181 24,054 33,099 61,942 29,757 0.3868 2.081594
2011-12 11,503 17,988 23,746 32,111 58,109 28,691 0.400927 2.025339
2012-13 11,122 17,805 23,533 31,870 59,049 28,676 0.38785 2.059178

The last two columns are first Bottom divided by All household and the second is Top divided by All Households.

This shows us how the poorest and the richest did relative to all households. We can see that in the change from 2011-12 to 2012-2013 the rich did get richer and the poor did get poorer relatively and absolutely.

Let’s focus on wages to avoid income

Although Mr. Snowden wants to focus on wages, this is less helpful

As painful as these pay cuts have been in recent years, it is unlikely that posterity will view them as anything more than a blip in the upward march of progress.

The bigger picture is quite clear. Since 1975, average real wages have more than doubled for full-time workers and nearly doubled for part-time workers.

Amongst the poorest decile, full-time wages rose from £3.40 to £6.67 between 1975 and 2013 (in 2013 prices) and part-time wages rose from £2.83 to £5.83.

Put another way, whilst only two per cent of full-time workers earned the minimum wage of £6.19 in 2013 45 per cent of full-time workers in 1975 earned less than £6.19 (in 2013 prices).

And, whilst 30 per cent of full-time workers earned less than £10 an hour in 2013, 85 per cent earned less than the equivalent of £10 an hour in 1975.

Wage rates do not tell the full story. Many people do not work and many workers have their incomes supplemented by benefits. If we look at household disposable incomes (i.e. income after direct taxes and benefits have been taken into account), we see a similar story of rising prosperity.

Between 1977 and 2011/12, the incomes of the poorest twenty per cent (the bottom quintile) rose by 93 per cent in real terms. Those of the top quintile rose by even more – 149 per cent – so it is true that the rich have got richer, but it is clear that the poor have also got richer.  State benefits play a major role in cushioning the poor from the impact of declining wages.

The problem with a focus on wages is that if you start in a low paying job you are likely to remain in low paying job.

There is evidence for wage persistence. If a worker begins his/her career in a low- paying job, he/she is very likely to stay in a low-paying job. Sixty per cent of the bottom ten per cent of earners in 2001/02 were among the bottom 30 per cent of earners in 2008/09. 84[5]

No matter how poor you are remember prosperity is up across the board

The argument continues to focus on rising prosperity across the board.

The post-2007 fall in earnings has been due to inflation rising at a faster rate than nominal wages, but, since benefit payments tend to be tied to inflation rather than wages, those who depend on benefits for most of their income have been protected from much of the decline in pay.

The Office for National Statistics records that average real disposable incomes fell by four per cent between 2007/08 and 2012/13 but that ‘the largest fall in incomes over this period has been for the richest fifth of households, whose disposable income has fallen by £3,300 (or 5.2 per cent) in real terms’.

By contrast, the ONS says, ‘the average income of the poorest fifth has risen by £400 (or 3.5 per cent) since 2007/08.’

This figure is chosen to avoid the follow up sentence that puts it all into context.  It is a drop of £400 from the previous year. Even though it is £400 better than 2007/8 (11,122 vs 10750) it is still £400 worse than the year before (11, 122 vs 11503). Moreover, the Top grew by £950 from 2011-12 to 2012-13 (58,109 to 59, 049) on the previous year! Thus, the rich got richer even as the poor became poorer. Why does Mr. Snowden avoid this uncomfortable truth? [6]

2007-08 10,750 18,156 24,587 33,478 62,314 29,857 0.36005 2.087082
2011-12 11,503 17,988 23,746 32,111 58,109 28,691 0.400927 2.025339
2012-13 11,122 17,805 23,533 31,870 59,049 28,676 0.38785 2.059178

He continues by trumpeting how the poor have become richer. In absolute terms, this is undeniable. However, the issue has always been relative wealth. The poor have not seen their relative share grow at all while the top have seen their share grow faster and faster.

It is inarguable that the poor have become richer in the long-term and doubtful whether they have become poorer even during the recent economic slowdown, despite incomes falling amongst every other group.

Whether measured in cash or real terms, whether looked at in terms of hourly, weekly or annual earnings, and whether taken before or after housing costs have been deducted, the last forty years have been an era of rising prosperity across the board.

Except the statistics do not support his argument. Let us compare the disposable income levels in 1977-1987. Overall things have gotten much worse, relative to the average, for the lowest group.

1977 5,966 8,606 11,386 14,852 23,288 12,821 0.46533 1.816395
1978 6,468 9,319 12,369 16,056 24,516 13,746 0.470537 1.783501
1979 6,396 9,300 12,531 16,574 25,371 14,032 0.455815 1.808082
1980 6,384 9,477 12,892 16,935 26,967 14,532 0.439306 1.855698
1981 6,672 9,516 12,730 16,978 27,895 14,759 0.452063 1.890033
1982 6,597 9,277 12,442 16,463 26,953 14,345 0.459881 1.878913
1983 6,640 9,449 12,704 17,007 28,290 14,818 0.448104 1.909165
1984 6,937 9,660 12,902 17,177 27,973 14,930 0.464635 1.87361
1985 6,898 9,773 13,515 18,653 30,828 15,934 0.432911 1.934731
1986 7,107 10,127 14,013 19,025 33,340 16,723 0.424984 1.993661
1987 7,151 10,428 14,772 20,425 36,765 17,908 0.399319 2.052993

From 1977 to 1986, the situation deteriorated slowly for the bottom. Then it dropped out in 1987. The ratio of bottom to all dropped from .42 to .39. It would not move greater than .39 until 2012 when it reached.4009.  By contrast, things were getting better for the top and jumped dramatically from 1985-1987. The Top went from 1.93 of Top to all households to 2.05. They have never looked back and despite some setbacks have never seen their ratio drop below 2.03.

Income inequality is the main issue

Mr. Snowden continues his argument and turns to, of all things, income inequality.

Is income inequality rising?

Because it is difficult to maintain the notion that the incomes of the poor have been falling in the long-term, critics of capitalism often base their argument regarding poverty around concepts such as ‘relative poverty’. However, reductions in relative poverty typically coincide with periods of general impoverishment. The official (relative) poverty line is generally understood to be 60 per cent of the median income, but this is essentially a measure of inequality and does not tell us whether or not the poor are getting poorer.

In 1979, thirteen per cent of the population was living below the relative poverty threshold. By 2005, the real disposable incomes of the poorest fifth had risen by more than fifty per cent and yet eighteen per cent of the population was now officially living in poverty.

Mr. Snowden makes a good dodge in his argument. He begins by talking about wages of poorest increasing during selected years and he then measures this against relative poverty without providing the measure for relative poverty. Even though he focuses on the 60% of median income, this does not tell us about poverty or income inequality.

Selective years paints a selective story

I find his years curious. Let’s look at them individually and then in context.

1979 6,396 9,300 12,531 16,574 25,371 14,032 0.455815 1.808082
2005-06 11,079 17,735 23,976 33,067 61,026 29,377 0.377132 2.077339

We see that the disposable income relative to all incomes has decreased for the poorest and increased for the top. Let’s look closer and see the context of these changes and why these years are important.

1977 5,966 8,606 11,386 14,852 23,288 12,821 0.46533 1.816395
1978 6,468 9,319 12,369 16,056 24,516 13,746 0.470537 1.783501
1979 6,396 9,300 12,531 16,574 25,371 14,032 0.455815 1.808082
1980 6,384 9,477 12,892 16,935 26,967 14,532 0.439306 1.855698
1981 6,672 9,516 12,730 16,978 27,895 14,759 0.452063 1.890033

When we look at the two years before and the two years after, 1979 stands out before of the changes before and after it for the bottom and the top relative to all incomes. The bottom suffered a drop both absolutely and relatively in 1980 and the top continued a steady increase relatively and absolutely.

Let’s look at 2005 in context.

2002-03 10,423 16,664 23,106 32,052 57,706 27,991 0.37237 2.061591
2003-04 10,625 17,137 23,430 31,573 59,017 28,356 0.3747 2.081288
2004-05 11,238 17,921 24,127 32,632 59,055 28,994 0.387597 2.036801
2005-06 11,079 17,735 23,976 33,067 61,026 29,377 0.377132 2.077339
2006-07 11,014 17,916 24,551 34,036 63,650 30,233 0.364304 2.105315

We see why 2005 is so important for Mr. Snowden. It is the only year in which poorest did well relative to all that is .38. It is coincidently the year the Top 2.03 was at its lowest. Why was Mr. Snowden so selective in his statistical choice?

He continues his argument looking at relative power but comparing it other countries.

In other words, raising the incomes of Britain’s poorest people by half did not prevent the official poverty rate rising by half. Just as the relative poverty rate can rise despite the poor becoming richer, so too can the relative poverty rate fall as long as the wages of the poor fall less sharply than those on median incomes. This is precisely what happened during the recent financial crisis. In 2010/11, Britain’s (relative) poverty rate fell to 16 per cent and the child poverty rate fell to 18 per cent. Both figures were the lowest they had been since the mid-1980s, despite – or rather because of – wages falling across the board. In short, the poverty rate has very little to do with how much money the poor have.

The UK’s official poverty rate in 2012 (16 per cent) was higher than that of Bangladesh (14 per cent), Azerbaijan (2 per cent) and Namibia (0 per cent). But, where would you like your children to be born?

The Gini Coefficient is not something you can eat when you are hungry

Mr. Snowden then turns to the Gini coefficient to make his point that inequality is falling after it peaked in 1990.

Not only has poverty reduced but income inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient which is the standard measure of inequality, is falling too: it peaked in 1990. By 2011/12 it had dropped to 32.3, the lowest since 1986.

Contrary to popular belief, the modern peak of income inequality was twenty five years ago. There was a significant rise in the 1980s, but since then rates have been quite stable except when a weak economy brings them down. It is simply untrue to say that ‘inequality soars’ in modern Britain.

When we look at the data, we find this just does not follow what the various indicators show. Yes, the relative income inequality peaked in 1990. This was the worst year for the lowest and the best for the top. It could not get worse without serious dislocation.

1990 7,158 11,286 16,989 24,401 45,613 21,089 0.339419 2.162881

However, this misses the longer trend and the current situation especially with the focus on 2011/2012. Again, he chooses the best year to make his case and it is wrong.

2011-12 11,503 17,988 23,746 32,111 58,109 28,691 0.400927 2.025339

The ratio of lowest to all hits it highest in 2011/12 at .4092 and the top has its, worst level since 1986 at 2.02. If we look at the next year, this all gets into context and we see the inequality gets worse. The lowest drop back to .38, marginally better than 2010/211 and decreasing from the previous year. The top get higher but worse than 2010-11 and increase on the previous year. Which one would you rather be experiencing?

2010-11 11,510 18,181 24,054 33,099 61,942 29,757 0.3868 2.081594
2011-12 11,503 17,988 23,746 32,111 58,109 28,691 0.400927 2.025339
2012-13 11,122 17,805 23,533 31,870 59,049 28,676 0.38785 2.059178

Again, we see that Mr. Snowden avoids the uncomfortable context that undermines his argument. Why?

Mr. Snowden also mentions the Gini coefficient to make his argument. He claimed that income inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient had peaked in 1990 and had decreased since.

Not only has poverty reduced but income inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient which is the standard measure of inequality, is falling too: it peaked in 1990. By 2011/12 it had dropped to 32.3, the lowest since 1986.

Let us look at the Gini coefficients over this period and focus on the figures he mentions.[7]

1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984
27.2 26.6 27.4 28.6 29 28.6 29.1 28.4
1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992
30 31.6 33.2 35.1 34.4 36.8 35.6 34.7
1993/94 1994/95 1995/96 1996/97 1997/98 1998/99 1999/00 2000/01
34.8 33.8 33 34.4 34.5 35.4 35.8 35
2001/02 2002/03 2003/04 2004/05 2005/06 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09
36.2 33.8 34 32.8 33.9 34.7 34.2 34.3
2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13
33.2 33.7 32.3 33.2

We do find that he is correct. 1990 was the worst year. When we compare 2011/12 to all previous years, it is the best until 1986. Except, that is not the full story. When we look at next year, the figure has gotten worse and returned to the overall trend of the previous 10 years. Far from being a sign of things getting better, it is seen for the anomaly that it is. The trend only improved under Labour in 2004/05 it was 32.8 which did not require a recession unlike 2011/12.  To keep the trend downward or stable it will require a similar economic and social policy by the Conservatives to keep the Gini Coefficient trend downward rather than encouraging it upward.


Mr. Snowden continues to discuss working hours and social mobility. However, at this point, I cannot continue. His statistical choices appear to suit his ideological interests. The selective statistics are not the sign of an academic or scholarly work. It is a work of propaganda. A propaganda that many will repeat without reading the fine print. However, those who repeat it without reading the wider context will demonstrate that ideological goose-stepping is easier than research, analysis and intellectual probity.

[1] Christopher Snowden’s article in the Institute of Economic Affairs Magazine EA can be found here: http://www.iea.org.uk/sites/default/files/EA%20Spring%202015_PRECIS.pdf

[2] https://www.tuc.org.uk/about-tuc/congress/congress-2014/tuc-general-secretary-frances-o%E2%80%99grady%E2%80%99s-address-congress-2014

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immiseration_thesis

[4] http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/household-income/the-effects-of-taxes-and-benefits-on-household-income/2012-13/data–deflated-equivalised-disposable-income–1977-2012-13.xls

[5] See the Government report on child poverty. 2012 Measuring Child Poverty:    A consultation on better measures of child poverty p. 33 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/228829/8483.pdf

[6] http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/household-income/the-effects-of-taxes-and-benefits-on-household-income/2012-13/data–deflated-equivalised-disposable-income–1977-2012-13.xls

[7] The Gini Coefficients are taken from the ONS figures. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/household-income/the-effects-of-taxes-and-benefits-on-household-income/2012-13/sb-figure-4-download.xls

Posted in Government, justice, local government, public sector, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , ,

The Queen and the rule of Law: Magna Carta’s myth

Jurist Edward Coke interpreted Magna Carta to ...

Jurist Edward Coke interpreted Magna Carta to apply not only to the protection of nobles but to all subjects of the crown equally. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a recent Spectator article, Daniel Hannan explained that the Queen obeyed the rule of law.

“..I’m closely involved with the project—will be unveiling a large bronze statue of the Queen, symbolizing both 800 years of the Crown’s acceptance of the rule of law….”[1]

Except that is wishful thinking. At best, it is a pious fraud. The Queen is not subject to the rule of law.[2] The MPs, the Police, the Judges, and the Army take oaths to her and not to law or to Parliament. The settlement of 1688 was devil’s bargain in which the people’s representatives sold the people into bondage so they could enjoy the Crown’s privileges. Unlike Mr. Hannan, I do not find the 1688 a Glorious Revolution in the way he does.[3] Parliament became part of the Crown, allowed the arbitrary royal prerogative power to remain, and perpetuated the Crown’s arbitrary power.[4] Far from a constraint, the 1688 Bill of Rights simply expressed the Crown’s powers against the people and the promise it, and Magna Carta made, remain unfulfilled.

The Queen rules the law; the law does not rule the Queen The law does not rule the Queen. She rules herself. The Royal Prerogative remains unscathed. It has been diminished over the past 327 years, but it remains testament to the fact that the Crown is not subject to the rule of law.[5] The Queen takes no oath to obey the law nor does she take an oath to a constitution.[6]

The legal prerogative, including the principle that the Crown (or the state) can do no wrong, and that the Crown is not bound by statute save by express words or necessary implication;[7]

Rule of law does not exist if it is not complete. No one and no thing can be above or beyond the law. If it is, then the rule of law is limited. We see this clearly in the fact that only laws that specifically apply to her are enforceable. All other laws she only obeys voluntarily. She is not required to obey them in the way you or I are required.

It is Her Majesty’s Government that Make Her Majesty’s laws. What this means is that a Police Constable cannot arrest her although she voluntarily obeys the law to avoid the constitutional issues that could arise from such an attempt. Thus, we are not equal before the law. A Police Constable can arrest anyone in the UK except the Queen. The rule of law means that no one is above the law. However, it is clear by definition and by fact that the Queen is exempt from most laws. The rule of law only exists for those who are not her equal. Thus, the myth that the Crown is subject to the rule of law confuses the issue. The Queen, the Anglican Church, and Parliament, which was coopted into the Crown in 1688, are the Crown. To say that the Crown follows the rule of law elides the vital point that the Queen, the source of the laws, is not subject to the law.

Prerogative powers are arbitrary and beyond the rule of law. We can see this demonstrated in the way Government relies upon prerogative powers drawn from the Royal prerogative. These are not subject to the rule of law. The Royal Prerogative is beyond the rule of law. You will have the rule of law when the Royal Prerogative is extinguished and the Crown is subject to the will of the law. Until that day, the arbitrary power of the Crown remains.[8] It would be called a tyranny except to the extent that it rules in accordance with the law.[9] It is not an institution created by or for the people. The law, until the Crown disappears, will be an instrument of the Crown used for its purposes and only indirectly for the people or the public good. Until then, you are subject to Her Majesty’s Government and Her Majesty’s Laws. She rules you. Neither the law nor Parliament rule.

Perhaps it is time to dispel Magna Carta myths and not perpetuate them especially by those who should know better.

[1] http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9535112/gove-vs-the-european-court-of-human-rights/ (accessed 24 May 2015)

[2]See for example     “Given the historical development of the Sovereign as the ‘Fount of Justice’, civil and criminal proceedings cannot be taken against the Sovereign as a person under UK law. Acts of Parliament do not apply to The Queen in her personal capacity unless they are expressly stated to do so.” https://www.royal.gov.uk/MonarchUK/Queenandthelaw/HowUKandEUlawaffectTheQueen.aspx (accessed 24 May 2015)

[3] I find it a glorious revolution only to the extent it inspire the American Revolution which completed its promise and threw off the Crown’s arbitrary power and instituted the rule of law with a written constitution. In the United States, the people are sovereign. No one is above the Constitution and all take an oath to serve it and uphold it. By contrast, the UK officials take oaths to the Queen not to Parliament or the Law.

[4] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/ldselect/ldconst/236/23603.htm (accessed 24 May 2015)

[5] Even the argument that the exercise of prerogative has to be reasonable and in accordance with the common law belies the existence of prerogative power. Prerogative power is not rule by law. It is rule beyond the law and until that gap is closed, the UK cannot claim that it follows the rule of law. http://www.innertemple.org.uk/downloads/members/lectures_2014/lecture_sedley.pdf (accessed 24 May 2015) Unless one wants to claim that the Royal Prerogative makes the law, in which case we return to the question of what is the law, which in turn raises the question of those laws not created by Royal Prerogative.

[6] The relevant passage from her Coronation Oath is

“Madam, is your Majesty willing to take the Oath?

And the Queen answering, I am willing.

The Archbishop shall minister these questions; and The Queen, having a book in her hands, shall answer each question severally as follows:

Archbishop. Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon, and of your Possessions and the other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?

Queen. I solemnly promise so to do.

Archbishop. Will you to your power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all your judgements?

Queen. I will.”

One notes that she does take an oath to obey the law. http://www.royal.gov.uk/ImagesandBroadcasts/Historic%20speeches%20and%20broadcasts/CoronationOath2June1953.aspx (accessed 24 May 2015)

[7] See the selection committee on Constitution 15th Report Waging War: Parliament’s role and responsibility http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/ldselect/ldconst/236/23603.htm (accessed 25 May 2015)

[8] As Lord Bingham of Cornhill expressed it so eloquently in R (On The Application of Bancoult) V Secretary of State For Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. “The royal prerogative, according to Dicey’s famous definition (An Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (8th ed, 1915, p 420)), is “the residue of discretionary or arbitrary authority, which at any given time is legally left in the hands of the Crown”. It is for the courts to inquire into whether a particular prerogative power exists or not, and, if it does exist, into its extent: Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister for the Civil Service [1985] AC 374, 398E. Over the centuries the scope of the royal prerogative has been steadily eroded, and it cannot today be enlarged (British Broadcasting Corporation v Johns (Inspector of Taxes) [1965] Ch 32, 79E).   http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200708/ldjudgmt/jd081022/banc-3.htm  (Accessed 24 May 2015)

[9] As Leo Strauss argues in On Tyranny, “kingship is rule “in accordance with the laws of the cities” (p.68). However, this does not mean that ruling according to the laws is not tyrannical. Instead, we see that the Crown has been at pains to placate the populace, keep them willing subjects, and to rule in accord with the laws even though the people cannot make the laws. They live with the appearance that the Crown makes and rules according to the country’s laws.  However, the deeper issue is the validity or legitimacy of the regime. Can the Crown claim to be legitimate when it is not based on consent, not even the 1688 Act can be considered to express the consent of a constitution. In other words, a regime without consent is a tyranny and the UK regime lacks consent, even though the people may be satisfied with the appearance that the regime rules in accordance with the laws. As Xenophon’s Memorabilia 4.4.13 explains citizens who covenant with each other create the law of the community. The UK regime is not based on such a covenant and lacks the legitimacy it provides. Therein we see the continuing and ongoing struggle between the UK regime and the spirit of 1789.

Posted in corruption, justice, philosophy, statesmanship | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The UK’s economic inequality is permanent

English: Vector derivative of File:Gini Coeffi...

English: Vector derivative of File:Gini Coefficient World CIA Report 2009.png Based on https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2172.html (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All societies have the problem of economic inequality. How they respond is an economic decision and a political decision. As a political decision, it reflects a regime’s approach to its citizens and the common good. The common good is both the overall societal well-being, such as economic wealth, and the political compact that binds the society together. To promote and protect the common good, a regime has to deliver its highest political priority—justice. If a regime cannot deliver justice, as understood by the society, then its legitimacy is suspect. The regime has to reflect and support the societal well-being by an equitable care for its citizens. If it does not deliver this outcome, it can be accused of serving a private interest not a common interest. The UK has the widest economic inequality in Northern Europe[1]  I argue the economic inequality reflects the inequality of the UK regime.[2] The inequality is more than an economic question about its cause, its severity and it context. It is a question of the institutional political inequality within the UK.

Why is the UK different from Europe when it comes to economic inequality?

The UK regime appears unable to deliver on its promise to protect its citizens and to maintain the common good. We can see it in the following questions. Why is there a stark difference between the UK and Northern Europe? The data behind the map indicates the inequality has existed for years and is not the result of one government.[3] The cause cannot be the Parliamentary party in power. The cause cannot be the recent economic downturn. As the UK’s wealth has increased, the inequality has increased By contrast, as Northern Europe’s wealth increased over the same time, economic inequality did not emerge. Despite its wealth, the UK is the sixth most prosperous country in the world; it has more regions than any other Northern European state that are poorer than the average in Northern Europe.[4] Is the difference in economic or political policies? The UK parliamentary parties and their economic policies have more in common with the Northern states of the EU than what differentiates them.[5] Can changes in industry, global markets, or regulatory frameworks explain the inequality? The Northern European states have had a relatively similar exposure to these economic issues. What remains for us to consider? The UK regime is what makes the difference.

The regime explains the inequality when compared to Northern Europe. By regime, I mean the rules, cultural or social norms that regulate how the government and society interact through the institutions of the Crown (Church, Parliament, and Monarchy). The regime creates the laws and the laws create the type of citizens that flourish within the regime. A regime creates a certain type of person who flourishes in that setting. To encourage that person to exist, the regime creates laws and institutions.[6]

The Crown has failed to deliver equity to its citizens.

The Crown has failed to address the issue. It has not redistributed economic prosperity to reduce the severe economic inequality. The economic inequality reflects a political inequality. Economic and political power is concentrated in London. London attracts the most political attention. The Mayor of London is a powerful political actor as the city contains The City of Westminster, which is the seat of the government, and the City of London, the country’s financial centre. The City of London is its own political entity and has a privileged relationship with Parliament.[7] However, the problem is more than the political system, the economy’s structure or even the status of City of London with its Lord Mayor of London.[8]

If the economic system serves the Crown, what serves the people?

In the Magna Carta’s anniversary year, we have to consider how the economic and political inequality reflects a political regime that owes more to a feudal system where position, patronage, and privilege than a democratic system based on equal rights before the law. The institutions of the regime are what the regime use to shape shapes its citizens. The regime’s institutions shape the way the citizens access justice, the political system, and the public domain. These institutions serve the Crown and its interests and in doing so benefit the people. Instead of mitigating or reforming that system, Parliament, as the only publicly influenced institution, has continued it and entrenched it. The Church has similarly contributed to the institutional inequality by its implicit defence of the regime even as it criticizes some practices.[9] By contrast, the countries in continental Europe have been able to redistribute the funds and prosperity as the institutions and the regime reflect the people.[10] They are based on an intrinsic political equality that leads to a relative economic equality between regions, as the government is responsive to the people, even if economic inequality between individuals exists.

The Crown protects itself from the people through Parliament and the Church.

The European governments promise equality and deliver it to the best of their ability. Ruled by a constitution that reflects the people’s will, Republics express a political equality based on equality before the law. The law binds even the government. By contrast, the UK is not a republic so it is not a government of the people, by the people or for the people. Instead, UK’s institutions that make up the establishment are designed as a bulwark against popular sovereignty or the popular will.[11] One way the Crown protects itself is that all judges, MPs and the Police swear allegiance to the Crown not to the people or the law.[12] These institutions represent the Crown to the people. What we realize is the normal representation model is flawed. Unlike when Parliament wrested power from the Monarch in 1689, they no longer represent the people in the same way. As Parliament is part of the Crown, the people choose who represents the Crown to them. The Police enforce the public order to defend the Crown. Even the press, which is nominally not a Crown institution, does not serve the people. The press serves the establishment and only indirectly defends the people if only to retain their source of power, which is the public interest and the need to keep the people informed so they remain safe. To the extent the people are kept safe, it is to ensure they have no cause to remove the Crown. A sovereign that cannot protect its people is soon deposed and a sovereign that will not restrain the predatory elites, will soon find itself suffering a crisis of legitimacy.

As the Crown is above the law, in that it alone creates and decides the law, we have to consider whether the rule of law is a pious sham. The law does not reflect the will of the people; it reflects the Crown’s will as expressed through Parliament’s sovereign will. Is the Crown and Parliament ruling in accordance with the law or their will?[13] In their allegiance, the MP represents the establishment, understood as the Crown, to the community. They reflect the residual political patronage system in UK political culture that relies on and expresses the Crown’s prerogative powers. The monarch may exist within Parliament, but its prerogative powers exercised by the government remain beyond statute and the people.[14] What we see is that Parliament’s sovereign will has become the absolute power it sought to supplant in 1689.[15] Instead of removing an absolute Monarch, Parliament has transferred its function, if not form, into a system that masks its role and allows it to control the public more completely than any absolutist monarch ever tried or hoped to control. In that sense, Hobbes’s Leviathan arrives in Parliament sovereign will working with a government wielding the royal prerogatives to defend the Crown.

What is the source of the UK’s inequality?

If the UK’s inequality does not reflect popular will, what does it reflect? The economic inequality reflects political inequality. It reflects the parliamentary privilege and a patronage system that remains from feudalism. One way to understand this is to compare it with the way a society distributes food. If we apply Amartya Sen’s argument to the issue, we can understand the problem. He argued that famines are rare in democracies because civic freedoms and equality mean political power reflects and respond to popular opinion.[16] In a republic, people share in the common good. In republics, extreme economic inequality is less common.[17] By contrast, the Crown is not responsible to the people. It is responsible to itself so inequality is not addressed. To the extent it does serve the public, it is to ensure they do not have a reason or motive to change the system. The Crown exists to perpetuate itself and the institutions within the Crown ensure that occurs, thus the major sources of coercive power (judges, parliament, police) are all aligned to serve it not the people.

Until the regime changes, economic inequality will grow worse not better.

The UK’s economic famines will not end until the regime changes. A change of government is not enough. The country has to change or the inherent injustice will continue. Political reform can lessen the symptoms, but it will not remove the cause, which is the regime.[18] Any individual or government that attempts to change it faces the power and temptation of the patronage and privilege system. As can be seen in footnote 21, the system is designed to co-opt those who might emerge as leaders against the regime and dilute ideas that would challenge it. For many, the chance to sit in the House of Lords and other Honours has been a potent tool to shape behaviour among the elite. For the politically ambitious, the Crown’s ability to confer status provides a powerful, near irresistible, temptation. In the face of such temptation, men and women once devoted to the public good find that their public service stops when a lucrative personal profit appears. Once they accept the privileges and status, they become less willing or able to work to challenge or change the system.[19] Many erstwhile radicals become satiated conservatives grown fat at the public teat as they soothe their conscience with soft embrace of ermine robes. At the same time, the public discourse is managed so that the popular media supports the regime. The media proprietors, hungry for the financial rewards that come with establishment endorsements, provide a compliant press that betrays the tradition of a free press. Even under the most robust Royal censor, one would find it difficult to find the free press as willing to endorse and expand the establishment views. Even the mild criticism it does find a way to encourage only reaffirms what was lost and provides the necessary appearance of free speech. What we find, though, is that those who benefit most from the privilege, especially recently achieved, fight hardest to defend it. The public in whose name the press claim to act, stand outside the system and exercise believe they can make and enforce the laws made in the public interest.

Is it the Crown’s interest or the public’s interest that is being promoted?

The system and its outcomes serve and defend the Crown’s interest and more widely the establishment’s interest. As part of the system, the press manage the public opinion and the police manage the public order to contain any manifest dissent. Parliament can pass legislation to reduce the public’s ability to organise dissent. The courts, supported by the police and Parliament, deliver swift justice on those who challenge the regime.[20] The process is not new as Aristotle described over 2500 years ago. [21] What is new, though, is the way it is done in the public interest rather than the Crown’s interest.[22] The popular media and the government make a great effort to encourage people to believe they gain from the regime. They do this because all regimes do it although the UK’s regime more than others as they have to market the idea that the public have more to lose if the Crown loses its privileges and position.[23] The best way to see this is in the various arguments that are made to explain why the City of London must retain its feudal rights.[24] It does not serve the public; it serves itself. Over time, the people and regions that might benefit from the reduced inequality are conditioned to expect that such change cannot or will not occur. Once conditioned to the inequality, explained by “market forces”, they find it difficult to become enthusiastic for proposed changes.[25] As mentioned in footnote 21, the system is designed to protect and promote the privileges and as the status quo, the law is on their side. Taken together, the law and the political system deter those who might change it even by non-violent means. Even when economic or political reform manages to be passed, it falls well short of what is needed to reduce the inequality. Once delivered, the reform becomes a barrier to further reforms as the popular mood is that so much has already been done for these areas any more becomes unnecessary or unseemly.

Will Magna Carta be anything more than a pious wish?

In the year of Magna Carta, it is time to consider a change. We need Parliament to reform prerogative powers and make itself and the Crown subject to a written constitution. The time has come to complete the path that Magna Carta symbolizes and promises. The promise is a regime that is based on a common good in which all share equality of the rule of law and the UK regime can deliver economic prosperity to achieve the EU average. Magna Carta created the promise that a regime will keep its basic promise to its members so they are treated fairly. In this promise, a regime has to demonstrate it is responsive to the people. Such a regime would deliver justice and promote the common good not the Crown’s private good delivered as patronage and privilege.


[1] The picture is from this source,

[2] http://inequalitybriefing.org/brief/briefing-43-the-poorest-regions-of-the-uk-are-the-poorest-in-northern- (accessed 22 March 2015) another way to look at the inequality is with this picture. http://inequalitybriefing.org/graphics/below_EU_average.pdf (Accessed 22 March 2015)

[3] http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/help/new-eurostat-website (accessed 22 March 2015)

[4] http://inequalitybriefing.org/graphics/below_EU_average.pdf (accessed 22 March 2015)

[5] http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/briefing-papers/SN06730/the-economic-impact-of-eu-membership-on-the-uk (accessed 22 March 2015)

[6] Regime is the order, the form, which gives society its character. Regime is therefore specific manner of life. Regime is the form of life as living together, the manner of living of society and in society, since this manner depends decisively on the predominance of human beings of a certain type, on the manifest domination of society by human beings of a certain type. Regime means that whole, which we today are in the habit of viewing primarily in a fragmentized form: regime means simultaneously the form of life of a society, its style of life, its moral taste, form of society, form state, form of government, spirit of laws. We may try to articulate the simple and unitary thought, that expresses itself in the term politeia, as follows: life is activity which is directed towards some goal; social life is an activity which is directed towards such a goal as can be pursued only by society; but in order to pursue a specific goal, as its comprehensive goal, society must be organised, ordered, constructed, constituted in a manner which is in accordance with that goal; this, however means that the authoritative human being must be akin to that goal.

  1. 34 Leo Strauss What is Political Philosophy? pp9-55 in What is political Philosophy? And other studies Free Press 1959.

[7] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/oct/31/corporation-london-city-medieval (accessed 22 March 2015)

[8] The Mayor of London is Boris Johnson and the Lord Mayor of the City of London is Alan Yarrow https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Yarrow for a wider discussion of the status of the City of London https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_London (accessed 22 March 2015)

[9] http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jan/15/archbishops-inequality-book-extracts (accessed 22 March 2015) It is distressing to note that an Archbishop would suggest that self-interest would prompt justice. If Christ teaches us anything it is not self-interest that prompts justice, it is love of God and faithfulness to his message. If we put our self-interest first, are we able to serve God and each other?

[10] Consider the following article that describes the attempt to redistribute economic prosperity across the EU and the UK’s approach. http://cor.europa.eu/en/news/regional/Pages/eu-officials-european-inequality.aspx (accessed 22 March 2015)

[11] Some commentators might argue that individual rights have increased within the past 70 years with laws for social welfare and providing the individual greater autonomy and redress against the state. This is true and misses the underlying point. The changes do not affect or address the underlying distribution of power and the nature of the regime. The system and the regime are fundamentally structured against popular sovereignty. In many ways, the increase in individual rights, without changing the regime, reflects the Crown’s strategy since 1689.

[12] The judge’s oath is here: https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/about-the-judiciary/the-judiciary-the-government-and-the-constitution/oaths/

The MP’s oath is here: http://www.parliament.uk/site-information/glossary/oath-of-allegiance/

The Police oath is here: Police Reform Act 2002 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2002/30 (accessed 22 March 2015) See section 83.

The Monarch’s oath is not to the people. She only agrees to govern according to the laws of each country over which she is sovereign. Her oath is here: http://www.royal.gov.uk/royaleventsandceremonies/coronation/coronation.aspx (accessed 22 March 2015)

[13] On the nature of what it means for a monarch to rule according to the laws consider this passage from Leo Strauss On Tyranny:

“Tyranny is defined in contradistinction to kingship: kingship is such rule as is exercised over willing subjects and is in accordance with the laws of the cities; tyranny is such rule as is exercised over unwilling subjects and accords, not with laws but with the will of the ruler.” OT p. 68

The issue though is who makes the laws. Parliament, part of the Crown, makes the laws so it is only accountable to itself not the people to whom it does not owe its allegiance. As Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury explains Parliament is only bound by its will nothing else because of its prerogative powers. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20131202164909/http://judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Speeches/mr-speech-weedon-lecture-110406.pdf (accessed 22 March 2015) See paragraphs 19-31.

[14] Tony Benn attempted on several occasions to catalogue the royal prerogative powers without much success. What most people do not realize is that the government exercises these powers hundreds of times if not thousands of times a year without recording their use or informing the public. [Insert link to Benn and Schmitt blog post]

[15] On parliament’s sovereign will see Lord Neuberger’s Weedon’s Lecture. http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Speeches/mr-speech-weedon-lecture-110406.pdf For a general discussion of the UK’s absolutism within Parliament, see Hobbes’ Leviathan. One only need to consider the way in which Parliament exercises its sovereign will unhindered by any statute and the government’s retained prerogative powers formerly associated with an absolute monarch and previously opposed by Parliament when they were in opposition rather than ascendancy. The prerogative powers, like Parliament’s sovereign will, exist beyond statute which means they are not bound by law. See https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/228834/7170.pdf (accessed 20 March 2015) at paragraph 21.

[16] See for example, http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,989405,00.html (accessed 27 March 2015) and http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/01/arts/does-democracy-avert-famine.html (accessed 27 March 2015)

[17] The issue is not whether a Marxist system is superior to a feudal system or a capitalistic system. The issue is the Crown’s inability to deliver on its promise to the public. The Crown has not kept its part of the bargain. Successive governments have failed to reduce the inequality. The failure raises questions about the Crown’s legitimacy and that in turn raises questions about political obedience. Is it any wonder that the Crown has to increase its surveillance powers and surveillance efforts in direct proportion to the emerging questions of illegitimacy of a political system based on feudal rights and an economic system based on privilege and monopoly? The Crown can only resolve these issues by a constitutional settlement that wold create legitimacy and make the government accountable to the people.

[18] The Governance of Britain 2007 is indicative of a superficial reform. It reforms the governance without reforming the regime that creates the political system and culture. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/228834/7170.pdf (accessed 22 March 2015) The document suggested some political reforms but stopped well short of suggesting a change in the regime. (See fn13 p.23 prerogative powers of Monarch will *not* be reformed.)

[19] The exceptions, such as Tony Benn https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Benn (accessed 1 April 2015)and Michael Foot https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Foot (accessed 1 April 2015), prove the rule.

[20] We can see the system at work after the London Riots of 2011 where the court sat through the night to process arrests and punish those who broke the peace. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14484239 (accessed 1 April 2015) The difference though is that the economic problems are not a threat to the peace. Yet, any dissent has to be funnelled through a political system that is structured not simply to moderate such demand for change but to deny it. When the UK political system wants to act quickly it can, such as banning weapons after Hungerford and other massacres. What it appears incapable of doing is taking the same approach to the economic injustice that exists. Yet, the European states seem to be able to deliver that justice.

[21] Consider these two selections from Aristotle’s Politics Translated by Carnes Lorde University of Chicago Press 1986. 1308 a and 1297b What they reveal is that so long as the regime does not abuse the poor and provides them benefits, they will not seek to overthrow the regime.

1297b For the poor are willing to remain tranquil even when they have no share in the prerogatives, provided no one acts arrogantly towards them nor deprives them of any of their property. Yet this is not easy; for it does not always turn out that those sharing in the governing body are the refined sort.

We immediately understand the deeper institutional challenge from the Child Sexual Abuse inquiry beyond the immediate issue of justice. The case suggests that the regime appeared to tolerate the abuse of the most vulnerable as police officers were told to drop investigations and lesser charges were brought if they were brought. The behaviour is the type that would outrage the poor who would seek to overthrow the regime for its failure to keep its bargain. Perhaps, this is the existential question the Crown cannot face as it appeared to profit, through the potential for blackmail and control, from the Child Sexual Abuse activity.

Even if someone wanted to challenge the system, the system, especially the honours system, is designed to co-opt the ambitious into the system.

1308a Further one should see that no only some aristocracies but even some oligarchies last, not because the regimes are stable, but because those occupying the offices treat well those outside the regime as well as those in the governing body—those who do not have a share, by not acting unjustly toward them and by bring into the regime those among them who have the mark of leaders, no t acting unjustly toward the ambitious by depriving them of prerogatives or toward the many with regard to profit; and themselves and those who do have a share, by treating one another in a popular spirit.

We can see how the system protects itself and ensures stability. The goal is laudable and welcomed if the regime is just. However, in a regime that does not live up to the maxims of equity the work to co-opt those who might challenge it indicates that it is not working to deliver justice but to prevent it.

[22] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/12/05/russell-brand-the-sun-hypocrite-flat-rent_n_6273894.html

(accessed 26 March 2015) Russell Brand is a recent example of someone who challenges the status quo and faces a counterattack from the media and from the political institutions. We note that the Sun, which supports the current government, is in the forefront of the attacks although the BBC have also been critical.

[23] One can note the huge effort that was made to encourage a “no” vote on the Scottish Independence referendum to avoid the possibility of a regime change, which independence would have triggered.

[24] They have an officer who sits behind the Speaker of the House to protect the City’s interests and remind Parliament of the City’s independence. (insert link)

[25] We can see this in statements that suggest that to reduce inequality is socialism or that a redistribution of funds is anti-capitalism. These statements are made without a hint of irony given that a government is designed to redistribute taxes to various programmes such as collecting taxes to pay for schools, health and national defence. The amount spent in each area shows the nature of the regime yet that in itself is not a socialist or an anti-capitalist motive or intent.

Posted in corruption, Government, justice, public opinion, republicanism, statesmanship | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Why does the United Kingdom need a written constitution?

English: One of several shelves full of books ...

English: One of several shelves full of books about the constitution of the United Kingdom at the law library of UC Berkeley School of Law. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why does the United Kingdom need a written constitution?[1]

The United Kingdom needs to have a written constitution even though it may never develop one. There are three challenges that need to be overcome before it can be written let alone agreed and implemented. Before we consider these three points, we need to understand that constitutions only arrive from a constitutional moment. They are not created by mistake or as an afterthought. We must move beyond the idea that a constitution comes from the intermittent accretion of laws and judicial rulings. A constitution cannot be an implicit document as that defeats the explicit purpose which as it constitutes a regime. A regime may form from the accretion of laws and judicial rulings, yet that is not a constituted body from a constitutional moment. One might suggest that a constitutional moment is an example of what Carl Schmitt called the exception. Yet, a constitutional moment unlike the exception or the state of exception, may require too much political change to be accomplished by a single document or a single decision. Moreover, unlike the state of exception a constitutional moment usually, but not always, demonstrates or relies upon all constituting parties agreeing that a constitution is necessary if only from a situation of crisis in which the status quo can no longer be sustained. Without a crisis or something that creates a constitutional necessity, such as secession, there is no appetite or incentive to change. Why should a constitution be introduced when the regime is satisfied with itself. In such a situation of regime self-satisfaction, what can be accomplished, at best, is relative reform rather than wholesale or fundamental change. If we consider the effort it took to create the Constitution of the United States of America, we see the UK faces a problem of significant scale and complexity.

In the United States of America scenario, a people created a government and by an extension a regime through a constitution. The intent in the UK appears to be a government will create a constitution. In that difference, we see the deeper challenge to a written constitution and a constitutional moment in which various institutional forces are at work that reflect the institutions which would either disappear or be seriously disadvantaged by a written constitution. The deeper challenge is beyond the scope of this essay as more space would be required to sketch or explore the forces and interests arrayed against such a constitution or the constitutional moment. At this stage, I can only say that many powerful actors have little to gain and much to lose from a written constitution.[2] However, I applaud Parliament for giving the public the opportunity to entertain the idea that it can create a constitution from reflection and choice.

It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force.[3]

Until the United Kingdom embraces a written constitution, it relies upon its founding is by accident and force. The hereditary monarchy has not arrived or remained by a democratic mandate. Even the restoration is not a constitutional event but a return to a previous status quo. Even though the UK has sustained its founding, the event of 1688-89, founding by reason and reflection, it remains incomplete. In terms of honouring the fundamental principle of Magna Carta, that men can reason and agree to determine their political system and the limits of political authority, it remains incomplete. To that end, I make my recommendation. However, my recommendation has to be understood in light of the three problems that only a written constitution can address.

Is equality before the law possible without a written constitution as supreme law?

First, we face the problem that without a written constitution we do not have a supreme law of the land as exists in the United States of America, France, Germany and other liberal democracies.[4] A written constitution becomes the supreme law of the land. The current situation is one where Parliament’s will is sovereign and this leads to arbitrary government through prerogative power, which is undefined, and not a consistent government through constitutional authority. The challenge from a constitution, as a supreme law, is that it would make the sovereign subject to the law. In a republic, where the people are sovereign, they express that sovereignty through the law they create and consent to obey. By contrast in the UK, the sovereign, the Queen is not subject to the law. She obeys voluntarily. Thus, unlike her subjects she is exempt from the law as sovereign, which belies the claim that there is equality before the law. [Insert footnote] One way to see this difference is that the Queen is not required to obtain a passport. The point can appear trivial or even humorous. However, it masks a deeper point of principle about the symbols and reality of power within the United Kingdom. If a constitution were created, then the Queen would be subject to that law as would everyone else. Moreover, Parliament would also be subject to and bound by the law. Herein we see the second problem.

Will Parliament willingly tame its sovereign power and by extension the Monarch’s power?

Parliament, and the other institutions, represents the establishment to the people they are representatives of the Crown not the people’s will. They swear an allegiance to the Crown not parliament or the people. This is at the heart of problem with the HRA.

Parliament is sovereign and it guards its sovereignty jealously.[5] Its sovereignty is supported by the prerogative powers it has inherited from the Monarchy. If a written constitution were created and implemented, it would bind Parliament’s sovereign will and the prerogative powers. Parliament knows that it is not bound by any limit save its own will. Parliament may enter into agreements and treaties, but it retains the right, and power, to leave those treaties to protect its sovereign will. In this sense, the Parliament is above the law. Lord Neuberger recognized this point when he quoted Lord Justice Laws,

It may be that my perceptive and far-thinking colleague , Lord Justice Laws, will one day turn out to be right when he argued that, through judicial development of the common law, ‘a gradual reordering of our constitutional priorities [may] bring alive the nascent idea that a democratic legislature cannot be above the law.61 ’ But we are not there yet. (the footnote is from here [6]

A written constitution will challenge this sovereignty and Parliament is not going to relinquish this power without some effort or a crisis. To put it directly “Turkeys do not vote for Christmas”. As neither the effort nor crisis exists, it seems a dream. At best, we may have some minor or indirect reform, such as a review, but the demand or appetite for fundamental change does not yet exist. Without a crisis, the system remains unchanged. Therein, we see the third problem. The political system, the Crown, is designed to sustain and defend Parliament’s sovereignty and by extension the Monarch’s prerogatives. We can see this is the issue of official Oaths.

When will the oaths reflect the primacy of the law or the benefit of the people?

As the Committee has identified in the evidence it has received, all public offices declare an oath of allegiance to the Crown. These oaths help us to see why a written constitution is needed. If we look at the Queen’s Oath, we see the issue clearly.

Queen did not take an oath to serve the people or the law.[7] She takes an oath to govern according to the respective laws of each nation. However, that does not mean that she is subject to those laws. She rules or governs according to their laws. She will ensure that law and justice are executed in her judgements. In this, we see the first issue. The Queen executes the laws even if Parliament creates them. Parliament cannot execute a law. The armed forces and the police take an oath, an attestation, to the Crown, not to Parliament or the people or even the law.[8] The Army and Royal Marines attest an oath to the Monarch.[9] We need to note that the Royal Navy does not swear an oath because it was created by Royal Prerogative.[10] Finally, we note that Parliamentarians taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen not to the law or to the people.[11] In themselves, the oaths are not problematic. However, in terms of a written constitution, they present an immediate and fundamental problem. The Monarch would have to release them from their oath of allegiance before they could swear allegiance to a written constitution as the supreme law of the land. In United States, by contrast, the military takes an oath of allegiance to the Constitution.[12]

We note that the oaths are more than symbols. They are legally binding statements, which define constitutional powers. An MP cannot take a seat in Parliament without swearing allegiance. The symbols reinforce the public’s position within society and before the law. Neither the Monarch nor her representatives swear an oath to them or to a constitution, which serves them. In the United States, all citizens are equal before the Constitution. Even the most powerful citizen, the President of the United States, takes an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. No citizen is above or beyond the Constitution. By contrast, the Monarch is above or beyond the unwritten constitution to the extent that the organs of the state and her representatives swear an oath to her and not a constitution or the people. Moreover, the people are expressly removed from the oath or their ability to enforce the oath. They may influence it but only in a way that is removed because it is exercised only through Parliament or by direct appeal to the Monarch.

The practical consequence of this issue can be seen directly in the issue of deaths in police custody. As Koos Couvee wrote, “Since 1969 no officers have been successfully prosecuted for a death in custody.”[13] The question that we must answer is “Who do the police serve?” They serve the Crown not the people. They keep the public order and enforce the law. However, the police do not represent or serve the public in the sense that they swear an oath to the people or to a constitution created by the people. Herein, we see how the oaths reveal the question of justice. All the organs of the state swear an allegiance to the Queen and the people are secondary. When someone dies in police custody, the police only answer to the government, which also swears allegiance to the Queen. The Queen, though, is not accountable to the people. The government is not of, by, or for the people. It is Her Majesty’s government, ministers, judges, armed forces and police force. When a police officer, a Crown official, is arrested and charged for the death in custody, the Crown tries them. If a constitution were to be created, then it would make the Queen subject to the law in the same way that any citizen is subject to the law that they have constituted. However, that potential raises a question whether the people will be allowed to participate in the constitution.

A constitution can create the possibility of a new political settlement. A new political settlement will be the first step towards a democratic justice. The Magna Carta contains that promise. A constitutional reform can deliver it. The question that the UK faces is whether the Crown will tolerate such a change and if the people can participate. A constitution written by the Crown and presented to the people to give them the opportunity to ratify it does not suggest a constitution so much as a Crown construct. The choice is whether the UK will retain its Monarchical system or if it will continue the journey towards a democratic future. Until the journey is completed, the UK will continue to have a partial justice and lack a common good based upon an equality before the law.


[1] The following essay is a revised and expanded version of my written submission to the Consultation on “A new Magna Carta” by the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee.

[2] Niccolo Machiavelli noted this problem in the Prince “And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.” The Prince, Chapter VI, Concerning New Principalities Which Are Acquired By One’s Own Arms And Ability http://www.constitution.org/mac/prince06.htm (accessed 1 January 2015)

[3] Alexander Hamilton Federalist #1 in The Federalist Papers (Avalon Project) http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed01.asp (accessed 1 January 2015)

[4] See for example “The Constitution of the United States,” Article 6, Clause 2

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”

[5] Consider Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury’s Weedon Lecture. 6 April 2011   http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20131202164909/http://judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Speeches/mr-speech-weedon-lecture-110406.pdf (accessed 31 December 2014)

[6] 61Laws, Illegality and the Problem of Jurisdiction, in Supperstone & Goudie (eds), Judicial Review, (Butterworths) (1997) 4.17 cited in Goldworthy, The Myth of the Common Law Constitution in Edlin (ed), Common Law Theory (CUP) (2007) at 204

[7]http://www.royal.gov.uk/ImagesandBroadcasts/Historic%20speeches%20and%20broadcasts/CoronationOath2June1953.aspx (accessed 31 December 2014)

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police_oath#United_Kingdom (accessed 31 December 2014). The constable will follow and uphold the law. However, their first allegiance is to the Crown not the law, parliament, or the people.

[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oath_of_Allegiance_%28United_Kingdom%29#Armed_forces (accessed 31 December 2014) “I… swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will, as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, in Person, Crown and Dignity against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, and of the generals and officers set over me.”

[10] http://www.royal.gov.uk/MonarchUK/ArmedForces/QueenandtheArmedForces.aspx (accessed 31 December 2014)

[11] http://www.parliament.uk/site-information/glossary/oath-of-allegiance/ (accessed 31 December 2014).

[12] http://www.history.army.mil/html/faq/oaths.html (accessed 31 January 2014)

[13] Deaths in British police custody: no convicted officers since 1969

Koos Couvée 9 August 2013 https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/deaths-in-british-police-custody-no-convicted-officers-since-1969 (accessed 1 January 2015)

Posted in censorship, corruption, Government, justice, philosophy, republicanism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

#Milifandom or how the press found out if a 17 year old scares easily

“The News of the World” scandal explodes at UK press. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the UK General Election campaign of 2015, a 17 year old learned about the UK media’s unpleasant behavior as guardian of the public domain. The 17 year old helped to start the Twitter trend called #Milifandom, to counter the negative stories about Ed Miliband. She did what many fans do for their favorite celebrities and sports stars, except this time it was for a politician. As this challenged the tabloid’s stories directly, they become interested. They quickly identified her and sought an interview. [1] Even though some people were surprised at how quickly the press identified her, it is not surprising.[2] The media are trained in tools and techniques to find people on social media.[3]

What price do we pay to be a citizen?

What this episode teaches us is that there is a price to participate in the public domain. Once you enter the public domain, politicians, press, and commentators will consider you a legitimate target. Although most public figures accept this as part of the business, those who are inexperienced in these matters will find this a high price. By contrast, politicians understand that this is the nature of politics, a public activity, not a private activity. They know and expect public scrutiny and media scrutiny. However, there is more to this than someone being introduced to the rough side of politics. The deeper and darker element to this story is the abuse of the public interest.

The press patrol the public domain with the power of the public interest

The public give the press great powers to publish information that they need to know to make informed decisions. The press act as a proxy for the public to hold the politicians and the powerful to account. They act in the public interest when they perform this role. However, this great power when abused can create a fear that chills democracy. They can act as an undemocratic body patrolling the public domain punishing those who might dare to challenge the status quo or the establishment. As gatekeepers for the public domain, they can decide who is in the public domain and who is to be pursued with the power of the public interest.[4] When they pursue someone, though, it keeps others from getting involved in the public domain and ordinary individuals stay away from it. As a result, democracy suffers. The press and not the public rule the public domain. The only people who participate in the public domain either have power to protect themselves or make a deal with the press to be protected. If you cannot make a deal with the press, you have three defenses that remain.

You only have three defenses against the power of the public interest.

Your first defense is the basic cost-benefit calculation. The cost of a story about you against the benefi for a newspaper and the opportunity cost against another story.  If you are not considered newsworthy, as a story that will sell newspapers, you will not be of interest to the press.[5] If you do enter the public domain, it is best to remain ordinary. In particular, you need to avoid anything that would attract the press.

The Court will protect you if you can afford it.

Your second defense is the court. If the press harass you or print defamatory articles, you can take them to court. However, it costs money to launch a legal case. The press do not want to lose defamation cases so they have extensive legal budgets to defend their stories. Against this financial and legal power, most people will simply suffer in silence. Even if you get to court, the court will defer to the editor’s public interest judgement in the first instance. The press can publish defamatory statements if they are in the public interest.[6]

Don’t speak up and you will not be monstered? The UK’s 21st century democracy?

Your third defense is that you are an ordinary person. Even though the courts may not want to decide the public interest, they are its final arbiter. They do not want to regulate the press and they explained in In Flood v. Times, that editor is best placed to decide the public interest in the first instance. However, the Court stressed that they believed that “ordinary individuals” would not be targeted by a trial by press.[7] However, like the public interest, the court did not define an “ordinary” individual. In some cases, press interest will be enough to create the public interest to turn an ordinary individual into a public figure. One way to do that is to offer them an interview or write a story about them.

What is democracy when the media decide who can enter the public domain?

What the 17 year old learned was that the press can decide who is a public figure to be investigated. In the UK, the media have a role to protect the establishment and maintain the public order in the public domain. If the press do not like your behavior, as many took exception to the #milifandom success, they will investigate and publicize their findings all in the name of the public interest. The incident reminds us that the tabloid press patrol the public domain armed with the public interest. They can seek out dissent from their editorial line and punish it. If you are their target, you might be lucky enough to suffer some bad publicity. If you have cause to upset the editor or their proprietor[8], you can be monstered.[9] Anyone targeted by the media have to live under the threat that they and their family will be investigated by legal or illegal means. In this situation, the press will go through the 17 year old’s life because she has dared to enter the public domain. This is what they do. They destroy lives for pleasure and profit.[10] As Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of the News of the World, said, “MPs do not scare easily.”[11] It turns out that the press are quite willing to find out if a 17 year old will scare easily.  This power, and the fear it creates, keeps people from speaking in the public domain.[12]

If MPs don’t scare easily then why try it on 17 year olds?

A citizen is someone who participates fully in politics or the public domain. By contrast, a private person does not enter the public domain. They have to be represented by someone and they become second-class citizens. In the UK, the media patrol the public domain and that inhibits people from attempting to become a full citizen. In a monarchical system, like the UK, which is based on patronage, privilege, and position, the establishment will guard its territory, the public domain jealously. To do this effectively, though, they need a proxy. The media become their proxy in exchange for access to, and favors from, the establishment. For anyone who might challenge that relationship, the price can be high. If the price is too high, is a healthy democracy possible?

[1] http://www.buzzfeed.com/hannahjewell/teenage-milifan-abby-is-angry-at-the-sun?bffb&utm_term=4ldqphz#4ldqphz (accessed 4 May 2015)

[2] It appears she was identified from the electoral roll where 16 and 17 year olds used to be referenced in the electoral roll registration even though they are not registered to vote. They are called “attainers” as they are going to be eligible to vote eventually. For a useful reference on the electoral roll consider http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/87111/The-completeness-and-accuracy-of-electoral-registers-in-Great-Britain.pdf (accessed 4 May 2015)

[3] See for example the BBC’s Academy http://www.bbc.co.uk/academy/journalism/skills/investigative-journalism/article/art20140204150039056 (Accessed 4 May 2015) and http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/collegeofjournalism/entries/23c67009-6a1a-394d-ae46-759fa7af1e30 (accessed 4 May 2015).  See also http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/collegeofjournalism/entries/6c483e23-884e-3206-a412-7af6e17b06dd (accessed 4 May 2015)  some of the other sites for finding someone or something are the following https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/20-search-tips-and-tools-for-journalists/s2/a553736/ (accessed 4 May 2015) The moral of the story is never assume you are anonymous online.

[4] The press went after the people who organized Thatcher death parties and the response on social media. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2306620/Thatcher-death-party-Young-union-firebrand-Bryan-Simpson-middle-aged-anarchist-Ian-Bone-parties-hatred.html (accessed 4 May 2015)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2307040/Margaret-Thatcher-dead-Teachers-hatred-helped-organise-Maggie-death-parties.html (accessed 4 May 2015)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/margaret-thatcher/9986361/Parents-and-staff-disgusted-by-Thatcher-death-party-teacher.html (accessed 4 May 2015)


By contrast, most people on social media opposed the print media’s articles and their approach to the issue. What it demonstrated was the extent to which the media defend the establishment line on the issue. http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/thatcher-death-social-reaction_b39533 (accessed 4 May 2015)

[5] For tabloids, this is a low bar as they will throw money at stories to find what they want to sell. http://leveson.sayit.mysociety.org/hearing-29-november-2011/mr-paul-mcmullan#s8693

[6] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2013/26/section/4/enacted (accessed 8 May 2015)

[7] “I would accept that the danger of trial by press without proper safeguards will often weigh heavily against the publication of the details of an accusation against an *ordinary individual*. But where the accusation is of crime or professional misconduct by a person in his performance of a public function, I do not think that the danger of trial by press without proper safeguards weighs heavily, still less conclusively, against publication.” [emphasis added] Paragraph 195 in http://www.5rb.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/FloodKSC_2010_0166_Judgment.pdf (accessed 4 May 2015)

[8] See    http://leveson.sayit.mysociety.org/speech/23034 (accessed 9 May 2015) See Anne Diamond’s testimony to Leveson. http://leveson.sayit.mysociety.org/speech/7776

[9] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/media/murdochs-scandal/what-its-like-to-get-monstered-by-a-murdoch-tabloid/ (accessed 4 May 2015)

[10] If you doubt that this occurs, I ask you to read this http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmselect/cmcumeds/458/458w126.htm (accessed 4 May 2015) Then ask if this was a story in the public interest. A further question to ask is where was the editor? Who behaves in this way?

[11] http://leveson.sayit.mysociety.org/speech/71515 (accessed 9 May 2015)

[12] One only need to note the attacks on Russell Brand for his vocal stand against the establishment.

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