Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Why Conservatives must defend an independent judiciary

If being a Conservative means anything it means support for the rule of law.

Anyone who imagines that you can have a genuinely free society without protecting people's rights through the rule of laws, even if that society holds free elections or organises direct participatory democracy, has not read enough history.

If you want a good object lesson in how a democracy can also be a ghastly, possibly even murderous tyranny if it does not have independent courts and a strong tradition of the rule of law, I suggest you study the history of Ancient Greece, the later Roman Republic, or the French Revolution.

I particularly recommend any good translation of Thucydides "History of the Peloponnesian War" - my personal copy is the Richard Crawley translation, which is supposed to be one of the better ones, I also understand that historians often speak highly of the Walter Blanco translation.

It is not difficult to imagine how a situation could soon arise in Britain which would cause those who were furious at yesterday's Supreme Court ruling to be very grateful that we have independent courts, while some of those who were rubbing their hands with glee might find that their own plans would be - quite rightly - challenged by Britain's independent courts if they ever got into power.

If Jeremy Corbyn were to become Prime Minister, he would presumably appoint John McDonnell either as Chancellor or to a senior position in the government. Mr McDonnell has said openly that he wants to put his political opponents, particularly Tories, on trial and when asked under what law he replied "I might want to invent it."

If that man ever becomes a minister Britain will need a strong independent judiciary and Supreme Court to stop him using retrospective legislation to lock up anyone he doesn't like.

Labour's conference voted last week not just to abolish Independent schools but to take their assets, financial, land and property, and redistribute them.

Taxation which applies on the same basis to everyone, or compulsory purchase orders in which a fair price is paid are one thing, but that policy would be out-and-out state sponsored theft.

And if Labour is ever in government and adopts a policy of wholesale confiscation against either  private schools or anyone else, Britain will need a strong independent judiciary and Supreme Court to protect the rights of the potential victims of any such policy.

Robert Bolt famously put the reasons why we need laws and independent courts into the mouth of Sir Thomas More in his play "A Man for All Seasons" as the famous "Give the devil benefit of law" speech, and it is as true today as it ever was.

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